Arts Fuse critics select the best in film, theater, dance, music, visual arts, and author events for the coming week.
By The Arts Fuse Staff
November 23 at 7 p.m.
Coolidge Corner Theatre, Brookline, MA
In this too-little-seen masterpiece from director Francis Ford Coppola, Gene Hackman plays an obsessive loner who is hired to record the conversation of a young couple as they walk through San Francisco’s Union Square. The film also features John Cazale, Robert Duvall, and Harrison Ford. In the four decades since The Conversation was released, US law enforcement has increasingly turned to wiretapping and surveillance as a means to gather information. There will be a pre-film discussion with Susan Landau, a professor of cybersecurity policy at Worcester Polytechnic Institute Department of Social Science and Policy Studies. She argues that by embedding eavesdropping mechanisms into communication technology itself, we are building tools that could be turned against us. In opting for short-term security we are creating dangerous long-term risks.
November 24 at 7:30 p.m.
Brattle Theater, Cambridge, MA
The Independent Film Festival of Boston presents of special screening of this extraordinary film by Academy Award-winner Paolo Sorrentino. It is a poignant tale of how we each find our own passion in life, with Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel exploring the lifelong bond between two friends vacationing in a luxury Swiss Alps lodge as they ponder retirement. While Fred has no plans to resume his musical career despite the urging of his loving daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz), Mick is intent on finishing the screenplay for what may be his last important film for his muse Brenda (Jane Fonda). And where will inspiration lead their younger friend Jimmy (Paul Dano), an actor grasping to make sense of his next performance? Set against a sprawling landscape of unforgettable sights and intoxicating music. Passes required.
November 27 at 7 p.m.
Harvard Film Archive, Cambridge, MA
This retrospective dedicated to French film maverick Maurice Pialat continues with his 1991 film, a tough portrait of the painter, who is played by Jacques Dutronc (he won a César for his performance). The visually striking picture concentrates entirely on the painter’s final three months at Auvers-sur-Oise, when he was cared for by art collector Dr. Gachet. Much of the plot is invented by Pialat, including an affair between Van Gogh and his host’s daughter. The film excels in its realistic set pieces: a party in a Parisian brothel; an idyllic dance beside the Oise; and a jolly alfresco lunch during which Vincent and his brother Theo impersonate Toulouse-Lautrec. The film looks like a succession of paintings by Renoir and Monet, presumably to show how radically Van Gogh’s vision differed from that of the impressionists. They observed the world, whereas Van Gogh transformed it. Watch the trailer. View the full Maurice Pialat schedule here.
Frame By Frame
November 30 at 7 p.m.
Brattle Theatre, Cambridge, MA
After decades of war and an oppressive Taliban regime, four Afghan photojournalists face the realities of building a free press in a country left to stand on its own—reframing Afghanistan for the world and for themselves. Through cinema vérité, intimate interviews, powerful photojournalism, and never-before-seen archival footage shot in secret during the Taliban regime, the film connects audiences with four people in pursuit of truth. Filmmakers Mo Scarpelli and Alexandria Bombach will be there in person for a Q&A. Prior to this feature, the DocYard will present the Frontline short film Love and Cancer at 27.
National Acrobats of the People’s Republic of China
November 22 at 4 p.m.
Mechanics Hall, Worcester, MA
Peking Dreams comes to Worcester with its stunning display of Chinese circus and acrobatics. Watch as its award-winning performers present daring feats, from the “Grand Flying Trapeze” to group contortion.
HARVEST CORNUCOPIA (A Thanksgiving Tradition)
November 25 at 2 p.m.
Traditions of Dedham, Dedham, MA
This year marks the fifth anniversary of Kira Seamon’s HARVEST CORNUCOPIA (A Thanksgiving Tradition), which blends music, dance, poetry, and photography for a visually charged afternoon performance.
Acton-Boxboro Regional High School, Acton, MA
For those outside of the city, Commonwealth Ballet’s version of The Nutcracker rivals that of the Boston Ballet’s. Enjoy a magical evening of snowflakes, toy soldiers, and the famed Sugar Plum Fairy.
—Merli V. Guerra
A Confederacy of Dunces, adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher from the novel by John Kennedy Toole. Directed by David Esbjornson. Staged by the Huntington Theater Company at the Boston University Theatre, Boston, MA, through December 20.
An exciting prospect—a stage version of Toole’s playfully Swiftian satire. “Nick Offerman (TV’s Parks and Recreation) stars as the larger-than-life character Ignatius J. Reilly: overweight, arrogant, eccentric, and still living with his mother in 1960s New Orleans. Called the Don Quixote of the French Quarter, Ignatius has a singular outlook on life. His farcical odyssey includes a riot in a department store and a raid on a strip club, and stints working at a pants factory and as a hot dog vendor.”
Saturday Night/Sunday Morning by Katori Hall. Directed by Dawn M. Simmons. Staged by the Lyric Stage Company of Boston at 140 Clarendon Street, Copley Square, Boston, MA, through November 22.
A play by the author of The Mountaintop “that brings together seven African-American women in a Memphis beauty parlor/boarding house during the waning days of World War II. As they wrestle with the uncertainty of what the future will hold when, and if, their men return, they fight dirty—with each other and with their own fears and desires, uncovering newfound friendship and love.” Read the full review on The Arts Fuse here.
Casa Valentina by Harvey Fierstein. Directed by Scott Edmiston. Staged by SpeakEasy Stage Company of Boston at the Boston Center for the Arts, Boston, MA, through November 28.
The New England premiere of Fierstein’s script, nominated for a 2014 Tony Award for Best Play: it is “set in 1962 at a Catskills resort where a group of heterosexual men gather secretly to dress and behave as women.” An all-star cast includes Thomas Derrah, Will McGarrahan, and Robert Saoud. Read the full review on The Arts Fuse here.
A Crack in the Blue Wall, written and directed by Jacqui Parker. At Hibernian Hall, 184 Dudley Street, Roxbury, MA, through November 22.
Parker’s vital play about a Boston policeman shooting a young African American man is a rarity: it explores grim problems that beset the black community by taking up contemporary issues directly rather than running back to nostalgic (and reassuring) replays of the past (e.g., To Kill a Mockingbird). Read an Arts Fuse interview with playwright Jacqui Parker.
uCarmen and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, versions of the Bizet opera and Shakespeare play adapted and performed by the South African company Isango Ensemble. Presented in repertory by Arts Emerson at Emerson’s Cutler/Majestic Theatre, through November 22.
“uCarmen transports us to a modern South African township to follow the story of Carmen, a strong, independent woman who will not be tamed. Meanwhile, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is completely faithful to the spirit of the original work and must be counted as one of the most successful operatic adaptations ever of a Shakespeare play—a work with spellbinding atmosphere that inhibits a truly unique, dreamlike world.” Read the full review of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on The Arts Fuse here.
Who Would Be King, written and performed by Liars and Believers. Conceived and directed by Jason Slavick. Music and lyrics by Jay Mobley. Staged by Liars and Believers at Oberon, Cambridge, MA, through November 22.
This original music/theater piece is “based on a biblical story of King Saul, who rises from obscurity and falls disastrously.” The narrative “swings from absurd buffoonery to high tragedy, with kinetic physicality, silliness, swords, and live electronica music.” Read the full review on The Arts Fuse here.
Trans Scripts by Paul Lucas. Directed by Jo Bonney. Presented by the American Repertory Theater at Oberon, Cambridge, MA, on November 23.
A staged reading of “a verbatim play that centers on the lives of six trans women. Their true stories, told in their own words, are honest, funny, moving, insightful, and inspiring. But most of all, they are human, shedding light not on our differences, but on what all people share, regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, or physical sex.” The reading will be followed by an A.R.T. of Human Rights panel discussion led by Timothy Patrick McCarthy.
Arabian Nights, an adaption of One Thousand and One Nights by Dominic Cooke. Staged by the Nora Theatre Company and the Underground Railway Theater Company at the Central Square Theater, Cambridge, MA, November 27 through January 3, 2016.
A revival of an award-winning production: a stage version of “a collection of folk tales from the Middle East and Asia.” The presentation “is rich with suspense, romance and hilarity—stories irresistible for all ages, and at its heart, the power of the imagination to heal, inspire, and transform.”
peerless by Jiehae Park. Directed by Margo Bordelon. Staged by Yale Rep at the Yale Repertory Theatre, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven, CT, November 27 through December 19.
The world premiere of a new comedy that pits youth against academia: “In an ordinary Midwestern high school, twin sisters M and L are competitive with everyone—except each other. When the failsafe combination of perfect academics, killer extracurriculars, and calculated self-identification fails to impress The College’s early decision admissions board, they hatch a sinister Plan B to secure their future.”
One Child Born: The Music of Laura Nyro by Louis Greenstein and Kate Ferber. Directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt. Presented by the American Repertory Theater at Oberon, Cambridge, MA, December 1 through 10.
This acclaimed one-woman show (starring Kate Ferber) “celebrates the music and creative force of the late singer-songwriter and rock and Roll Hall of Famer whose pop masterpieces — including “Eli’s Comin’,” “And When I Die,” “Save the Country,” and “Stoney End”—topped the charts in the ‘60s and ‘70s.”
Hard and Fast: A Love Story by Jess Foster. Directed by Dawn M. Simmons. Staged by Boston Public Works at the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, Boston, MA through December 5.
A romance about men and their cars: Roger, a struggling mechanic, has a real passion for restoring classics. He’s finally found his dream car, “Audra,” a 1958 Austin Healey. When a wealthy lawyer wants the car for his 16-year old son Parker, the offer’s too good for Roger to refuse. He makes one stipulation: Parker must help finish the car’s restoration to understand its true value.”
The Snow Queen by Kirsten Brandt, Haddon Kime, and Rick Lombardo. Directed and choreographed by Lombardo. Staged by New Repertory Theatre in the Charles Mosesian Theater at the Arsenal Center for the Arts, Watertown, MA, November 28 through December 20.
A pop/rock musical “based on the same Hans Christian Andersen story as Disney’s Frozen.” The production features a cast of Boston favorites including Aimee Doherty, Maureen Keiller, Maurice Emmanuel Parent, and Nick Sulfaro. The production will mark the first time Rick Lombardo has returned to direct at New Rep since his departure in 2009.
Roots and World Music
Road to Damascus
November 23 at 8 p.m.
Gaston Hall, Boston College, Boston, MA
Syrian oud virtuoso Kenan Adnawi is joined by special guests Sandeep Das (tabla) and Mike Block (cello) for a night of new compositions and improvisations.
Thanksgiving Eve Extravaganja
Kay’s Oasis, Dorchester, MA
Tony Screw’s Downbeat the Ruler is a giant among reggae sound systems. While the New York-based sound brings its extensive collection of dub plates to venues all over the world, it hasn’t been heard in Boston in over a decade.
A Mighty Love: A Tribute to Mighty Sam McClain
November 28 at 7 p.m.
Regent Theatre, Arlington, MA
One of the all-time great voices in soul music belonged to New Hampshire resident Mighty Sam McClain. The Louisiana native had a huge mid-‘60s hit with “Sweet Dreams” before finding himself homeless. An incredible recovery culminated in him touring the world from the ‘90s until his death earlier this year. Never one to rest on his laurels, McClain would rebuff offers to sing his old 45s or appear without his own band. Instead, he constantly wrote and recorded new material, and even made several remarkable duet records with Persian singer Mahsa Vahdat. A wide range of his friends from the local and national blues and rock communities, including Boston R&B legend Shor’ty Billups, will honor McClain’s legacy with the proceeds going to house homeless veterans.
Leonardo & Ze Felipe
November 29 at 10 p.m. (doors open at 8 p.m.)
Wonderland Ballroom, Revere, MA
Advertised as a mini cabaret, Brazilian father-son duo Leonardo and Ze Felipe will be playing at the Wonderland Ballroom. The same venue is hosting a double bill of the bands Djakout and Klass on Thanksgiving.
Stephanie Chase plays Sarasate
Presented by the Boston Classical Orchestra
November 22 at 3 p.m.
Faneuil Hall, Boston, MA
Steven Lipsitt and the BCO present a wide-ranging concert featuring violinist Chase in a pair of pieces by Sarasate, plus music by Bach and Vivaldi. The Third Suite from Respighi’s Ancient Airs & Dances rounds out the program.
Bronfman plays Bartók
Presented by the Boston Symphony Orchestra
November 24, 27, 28 at 8 p.m. (1:30 p.m. on Friday)
Symphony Hall, Boston, MA
For the BSO’s last performances of 2015, Yefim Bronfman returns to Symphony Hall as the soloist in one of his specialties, Bartók’s terrific Piano Concerto no. 2. And Andris Nelsons conducts two rarely-played (by the BSO, at least) symphonies: Haydn’s no. 30 (last played in 1977) and Tchaikovsky’s vastly underrated no. 1 (last performed in 1997).
Chamber Series II—La Fenice
November 23 at 7 p.m.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 15 St. Paul Street, Brookline, MA
The Fenice Quintet reunites for a concert of Haydn, Faure, and a remembrance of composer Gunther Schuller with a performance of his Sonata for Oboe and Piano.
Faculty Recital: Marti Epstein, Hypnagogia: CD Release Recital
November 24 at 8 p.m.
Seully Hall/Boston Conservatory, 8 The Fenway, Boston, MA
The Ludovico Ensemble will perform two works by composer and faculty member Marti Epstein in celebration of their recording of a CD of her chamber music.
The Bostonians with Elias Rosemberg present Best of Broadway Night 2
November 29 at 7:30 p.m.
Temple Emanuel, 385 Ward Street, Newton, MA
Cantor Elias Rosemberg will be joined by the Bostonians with Founding Director, Richard Conrad. “These fabulous singers are back to delight us with songs from Guys and Dolls, South Pacific, The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, Annie Get Your Gun, Oklahoma, and others, celebrating the outstanding contribution that Jews in America made to the music of this country and to American musical theatre.”
Gunther Schuller Tribute
November 22 at 3 p.m.
Jordan Hall, Boston, MA
The Boston Modern Orchestra Project and Odyssey Opera celebrate Gunther Schuller, who was born on this day in 1925 and died last June. This concert will explore the jazz and classical sides of Schuller’s personality (which came together in the genre he coined “Third Stream”). The program will include “Games” (2013) for wind quintet and strings; “Journey Into Jazz” (1962), with Schuller’s sons, Ed on bass and George on drums (each formidable artists in their own right); and “The Fisherman and His Wife” (1970), a one-act opera with a libretto by John Updike.
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra
November 22 at 5 p.m.
Symphony Hall, Boston, MA
Wynton Marsalis and crew take on an unusual project for a big band: John Coltrane’s epochal 1965 composition for quartet, A Love Supreme. Brother Branford assayed an estimable version for his own quartet a few years ago, but this should be a whole other deal.
November 27–29 at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. (4 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sunday)
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston, MA
The 66-year-old Cuban expat trumpeter, pianist, composer, and sometime vocalist Arturo Sandoval is a dynamo of ingratiating enthusiasm and virtuoso skill. Scullers has booked him for six shows, including two on Sunday.
Matchbox comprises four formidable players who like to dance along the line between composition and free improvisation: Jorrit Dijkstra on alto sax and Lyricon, Pandelis Karayorgis on piano, bassist Nate McBride, and drummer Curt Newton. They’re celebrating a CD release on the Cambridge-based Driff Records.
JCA presents “Winds, Strings & Mallets”
December 1 at 8 p.m.
Lily Pad, Cambridge, MA
A “subset” of the Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra presents music for, as the sign says, “Winds, Strings & Mallets,” with compositions by Dave Harris, Darrell Katz, Bob Pilkington, and Helen Sherrah-Davies, performed by saxophonists Phil Scarf, Rick Stone, Lance Van Lenten, and Melanie Howe Brooks; Sherrah-Davies on violin; vibes and marimba player Vessela Stoyanova; and singer Rebecca Shrimpton (as the non-winds/string/mallets wildcard?).
The fine trumpeter and composer Daniel Rosenthal fronts a quintet with Charlie Kohlhase on alto and baritone saxophones, bassist Jef Charland, and drummer Luther Gray.
Fronted by Meriden, New Hampshire, native Will Sheff, Okkervil River released its most recent album in 2013. So the reason for its current tour is not to promote new material, but to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the record Black Sheep Boy, which is played in its entirety. Given that all of the band’s albums since that one are at least equally good from beginning to end, I would love for them do the same for each of those as well. Originally scheduled for The Sinclair in Cambridge, popular demand moved their November 24 show to Royale in Boston, where I last saw them four years ago.
According to Greil Marcus, the West Coast Dean of American Rock Critics, the 1976 Flamin’ Groovies song “Shake Some Action” “is what rock ‘n’ roll is. Nothing like this song, this performance, this sound had ever been heard on earth before rock ‘n’ roll emerged. It’s the purest distillation of what the form wants to be.” That is pretty much what I meant when I first called it the “Platonic form of a power pop song.” But how unfair it would be to focus on this song alone, as if it were they only thing the band had to recommend it. The Flamin’ Groovies did not become quite possibly the greatest, most underrated American cult band ever on the basis of one track. Many of the other reasons why this San Francisco group is worthy of this distinction will be on display at Brighton Music Hall on Wednesday. Go, and have something to be very thankful for the next day.
It was clear from the substantial amount of buzz generated by Live’s 1991 debut album Mental Jewelry that the Pennsylvania quintet was worth keeping an ear on. Nothing, however, could have prepared listeners for the massive breakthrough that came with 1994’s Throwing Copper. With songs such as “Selling the Drama,” “I Alone,” “Lightning Crashes,” and “All Over You” played in perpetual rotation on radio and MTV, the album practically became the soundtrack of my last few months of high school and my summer before college. In the true spirit of the mid-90s, Live leader Ed Kowalczyk will treat a Brighton Music Hall crowd to an unplugged (i.e., acoustic) performance of Throwing Copper on Saturday.
If ‘90s alternative rock is not your thing, then ship on up to The Cabot in Beverly. Salem’s Qwill and HDRnB (aka, Henley-Douglas RnB)—the latter of whom will be joined by Sarah Seminski, formerly of Big Ol’ Dirty Bucket and currently of Sarah and the Wild Versatile—will lay down the tracks for headliner Barrence Whitfield. A longtime Beverly resident, Whitfield is a freight train of a performer who, with 2013’s Dig Thy Savage Soul and this year’s Under the Savage Sky, makes one feel as though he or she is hearing classic R&B and pre-Beatles rock ‘n’ roll for the very first time. He just got back from a tour of Europe, and will be joined on the 28th by The Grits & Groceries Orchestra.
Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner
Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum
November 23 at 7 p.m.
Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, MA
Two community organizers come to Cambridge to discuss their latest work, telling the story of their unlikely political and romantic partnership. Odede grew up in Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, scrounging for food and teaching himself to read with old newspapers. The Colorado-born Posner met him while doing research abroad and, over objections, decided to live with Odede in Kibera and start a youth activism organization together.
The Blind Angel: New Old Chassidic Tales
November 23 at 7 p.m.
Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA
For 25 years, Rabbi Tovia Halberstam, the scion of leading Chassidic dynasties, told classic Chassidic stories on Yiddish radio in New York City. His son Joshua re-imagines these stories in his new collection, updating them for a contemporary audience.
Rules for 50/50 Chances
November 24 at 7 p.m.
Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA
McGovern’s novel tells the story of a 17-year-old girl who discovers that she has the possibility to find out whether or not she has inherited her family’s genetic predisposition for Huntington’s disease. The truth will change her life forever—but is she ready to deal with what it will mean to find out the truth?
National Novel Writing Month: I’ve Written Thousands of Words, Now What?
Talk by Stephanie Gayle
November 28 from 2–3 p.m.
Cambridge Public Library, Cambridge, MA
If you’ve ever participated in National Writing Month—and even if you haven’t—if you’ve ever tried your hand at writing fiction, you know how difficult it can be to assemble everything you’ve written and mold it into something coherent. Gayle, a novelist, offers her expertise on how to turn your bundle of words into a substantial manuscript.
A Little Life
In Conversation with Christopher Castellani
November 30 at 7 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.)
Cambridge Public Library, Cambridge MA
One of the clear candidates in the year-end tally of the year’s best books: the novel has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Award. Yanagihara’s novel revolves around four friends from Massachusetts who are making their way in New York City. The responses from readers that I’ve seen have varied from incredibly moved to annoyed at the story’s pathos, which makes the opportunity to see her read from the book in person all the more intriguing.
Suzanne Berne, Sven Birkerts, Joan Wickersham, and Jonathan Wilson
Brief Encounters: A Collection of Contemporary Nonfiction
November 30 at 7 p.m.
Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA
An all-star lineup reads and discusses a new anthology of flash fiction. Over 80 pieces have been assembled, including a wide range of contemporary voices, perspectives, and new literary forms, spanning the breadth of the genre from rants to raves, lyrical and realistic, polemics and ruminations.
Juan Felipe Herrera
December 1 at 7:30 p.m.
Weinstein Auditorium, Wright Hall, Smith College, Northampton, MA
The current poet laureate—and the first Latino to be appointed to the position—will read from his work at Smith College. He has won many awards for his poetry and his work in “encouraging others to speak, to speak up and write with their voices and their family stories and their sense of humor and their deep concerns and their way of speaking their own language.”