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
Rocco & His Brothers
December 25 – 31
Brattle Theater, Cambridge, MA
This is new digital restoration of the Luchino Visconti’s masterpiece from 1961. Critic Bosley Crowther called it “a strong and surging drama of an Italian peasant family’s shattering fate in the face of the brutalizing forces of unfamiliar modern city life [it has] the kind of emotional fullness and revelation that one finds in the great tragedies of the Greeks.”
The British Arrows Awards
December 26, 27, 29 at 3 p.m.
Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, MA
This holiday season the ICA carries on a venerable tradition of presenting the popular British Arrows Awards’ eclectic mix of ads, which take the form of bite-size mini-dramas, outrageous satires, and awe-inspiring formal experiments. From high-tech extravaganzas to down-and-dirty comedy, these brusque films celebrate commercial creativity.
If you have made it through the must-see march of films released at the end of the year, or just want to stay home for the holidays, here are five suggestions for films to rent or download that appeal to all tastes.
Babes in Toyland: This wacky Laurel and Hardy comedy from 1934 has plenty of antique charm that will entertain the whole family. It was later retitled March of the Wooden Soldiers and is available in its entirety on YouTube.
A Christmas Carol: Of the many cinematic variations of Dickens’ Christmas Carol (starring George C Scott, Michael Caine, Albert Finney, and Bill Murray) this version from 1951 by Brian Desmond Hurst remains the best (in my humble opinion). Alastair Sim’s Scrooge is the archetypal skinflint. The film can be viewed at this linked site.
A Child’s Christmas in Wales: Dylan Thomas’ 1955 radio play was nicely adapted to film. Don McBrearty directs. The movie boasts vivid costumes, performances, and cinematography. Denholm Elliott is captivating, both as narrator and as Old Geraint. The film is available free on YouTube.
Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence: David Bowie, Tom Conti, and Takeshi Kitano star in Nagisa Ôshima’s captivating if somewhat skewed 1983 World War II drama of a British officer interned by the Japanese as a POW. Rock star Ryuichi Sakamoto (who also composed this film’s hypnotic score) plays the camp commander, obsessed with the mysterious blond Major (David Bowie) from New Zealand. Conti plays Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence, who tries to bridge the emotional and language divides between captors and prisoners. This culture clash narrative is multilayered, brutal, and at times erotic. It is one of Ôshima’s finest achievements. The film is available in local libraries.
A Christmas Tale: Arnaud Desplechin’s 2008 French film is the story of the troubled Vuillard family, who come together at Christmas after the matriarch learns she needs a bone marrow transplant from a blood relative. Unrequited childhood loves and blinding grudges, brutal outbursts and sudden slapstick, music, movies, and poetry are all wrapped together in a marvelously messy package. It stars Catherine Deneuve and Mathieu Amalric (Grand Budapest Hotel) Available on Hulu.
Tangerine: It’s Christmas Eve in Tinseltown and Sin-Dee (Kiki Rodriguez) hears that her pimp boyfriend hasn’t been faithful during the 28 days she was locked up. She and her best friend, Alexandra (Mya Taylor), embark on a mission to get to the bottom of the guy’s scandalous rumor. Their rip-roaring odyssey leads them through various subcultures of Los Angeles. This is a colorful and crazy romp that was nominated for a number of awards this year. It breaks new ground with its use of transgender actresses. You will be amazed at the film’s look, given that it was shot with three iPhone 5s smartphones. Now available on Netflix.
– Tim Jackson
December 20, 26, 27
John Hancock Hall
The final Nutcracker I’ll be recommending this season: Don’t miss Tony Williams’ version: it is the only Nutcracker in Boston that uniquely presents the classic story through an inner-city lens, drawing on music from a blend of composers that range from Tchaikovsky to Duke Ellington.
Winter Wonder Dance Festival
The Dance Complex
Join the Dance Complex for its annual cold weather celebrations! Enjoy improv jams, performances, an afternoon New Year’s Eve party, and a salute to the complex’s new Studio 7.
– Merli V. Guerra
Dave Bryant Trio
December 20 at 8 p.m.
Outpost 186, Cambridge, MA.
Former Ornette Coleman keyboardist Dave Bryant jams with his longtime cohort of bassist Jacob William and drummer Eric Rosenthal.
December 22 at 7 p.m.
Lily Pad, Cambridge, MA.
An extremely promising group, with players who like to mix sharp writing and free improve: alto saxophonist Dave Rempis (perhaps best known for his work with Ken Vandermark), trumpeter Forbes Graham, pianist Pandelis Karayorgis, bassist Nate McBride, and drummer Luther Gray.
Charlie Kohlhase/Eric Hofbauer
December 23 at 8 p.m.
Lily Pad, Cambridge, MA.
Saxophonist Kohlhase and guitarist Hofbauer have often worked together in small-band formats. Here they go at it as duo, with Kohlhase billed as bringing all his horns: alto, tenor, baritone.
December 27 at 6 p.m.
Lily Pad, Cambridge, MA.
This quartet’s explorations of multiple folkloric traditions are both deeply informed and exhilaratingly spontaneous, often revealing surprising cross-references. They start with a foundations built on Argentine tangos, Italian tarantellas, Turkish sacred Sufi songs, Irish reels, Moroccan trance, Bulgarian dance music, and what all. The players are Roberto Cassan on accordion, Matt Glover on electric mandolin, Club d’Elf’s Mike Rivard on double bass and Moroccan sintir, and Fabio Pirozzolo playing percussion and singing.
– Jon Garelick
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.” Read the full reviews on The Arts Fuse here and here.
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, 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.”
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, 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. Arts Fuse review.
Return of the Winemaker: An Irish Christmas Comedy by Bernard McMullan. Directed by Carmel O’Reilly. Staged by Tir Na Productions at the Davis Square Theatre, 255 Elm Street, Somerville, MA, through December 20.
Here’s the premise of what must be an evening of absolute whimsy. Or TV’s Fox News will condemn this show as an enemy of Xmas: “Instead of Bethlehem, Jesus was born in Ireland. Ballyhoura, County Galway, to be exact. He cured a few goats of liver fluke in his youth and there was talk of him being able walk across Walsh’s bog but nobody ever took him seriously until one day when he turned water into wine.” Besides the production’s expert director, there’s a strong cast: Nancy E. Carroll, Colin Hamell, Stephen Russell, and Derry Woodhouse.
Buyer & Cellar by Jonathan Tolins. Directed by Courtney O’Connor. Staged by the Lyric Stage Company of Boston at 140 Clarendon Street, Boston, MA, through January 3.
“When you’re an out-of-work L.A. actor, what better job could you imagine than being the sole employee of the ‘Great Mall of Malibu’—Barbra Streisand’s treasure-filled basement!” Stars Phil Tayler. Arts Fuse review.
Beowulf: A Feast of Story, translated by Seamus Heaney. Adapted for the stage by David Gullette. Directed by Benjamin Evett. Staged by the Poets’ Theatre at the Cambridge Arts Center, Cambridge, MA, through December 20.
“Celebrate the solstice with fun, frolic and ferocious adventure in a modern Medieval mead hall as we bring to life the immortal tale of Beowulf, who battles monsters (and their mothers!) to save the kingdom of the proud king Hrothgar. Feast on food, drink, music, dancing, juggling, viking combat, and most importantly the exuberant and intoxicating poetry of this magical story.” Arts Fuse review and feature.
Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!) by Michael Carelton, Jim FitzGerald and John K. Alvarez. Original music by Will Knapp. Directed by Allison Benko. At Gloucester Stage, 267 Main Street, Gloucester, MA, through December 20.
I am always on the look out for sharp parodies/spoofs/send-ups of Christmas shows. (A symptom of spending decades sitting through uninspired productions of A Christmas Carol.) This sounds promising: “The Grinch, Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman, Charlie Brown, and George Bailey—and just about every other holiday character—make an appearance in this hilarious comedy when three actors decide to retell every Christmas story ever told in only 90 minutes rather than perform yet another rendition of A Christmas Carol.” Let’s hope that Scrooge doesn’t make an appearance.
Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, a musical adaptation of an excerpt from Leo Tolstoy’s novel War and Peace by Dave Malloy. Directed by Rachel Chavkin. Choreographed by Sam Pinkleton. Staged by the American Repertory Theater at the Loeb Drama Center, Cambridge, MA, through January 3.
“Natasha is young, Anatole is hot, and Andrey isn’t here…But what about Pierre?” What about Tolstoy? Hey, he didn’t write musicals, so he couldn’t see that War & Peace had a beat you could dance to. “This electropop opera is Tolstoy like you’ve never experienced him before. Step into a glamorous, romantic world of chandeliers, vodka and caviar in the salons and opera houses of 19th century Moscow, where passions ignite as Napoleon’s war rages outside the city.” Features “an immersive set designed by 2015 MacArthur ‘Genius Grant’ Winner, Mimi Lien.”
The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare. Directed by Melia Bensussen. Staged by the Actors’ Shakespeare Project in Wilet Hall at the United Parish, Brookline, MA, through January 3.
Steven Barkhimer, Marianna Bassham, Allyn Burrows, and Nigel Gore are in the cast for this staging of Shakespeare’s magical fable, where “forgiveness wins out over mistrust, keeping this sublime romance out of the clutches of tragedy!”
The Christmas Revels: A Welsh Celebration of the Winter Solstice. Directed by Patrick Swanson. Music directed by George Emlen. At Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre, Cambridge, MA, through December 27.
The venerable seasonal entertainment, “a joyous theatrical celebration filled with music, dance, comedy and carols,” celebrates its 45th year. This time around, the show takes on “an exhilarating journey to the ancient Celtic nation of Wales.” It is set in “a village not too different from the one described in Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales in order to “access the world of Celtic legend and song.”
Matchless & The Happy Prince Directed by Debra Wise. Staged by Underground Railway Theater at Central Square Theater through January 3.
On the program: Gregory Maguire (Wicked) adapts the Hans Christian Andersen tale “The Little Match Girl” for the stage, along with a version of Oscar Wilde’s fairy tale “The Happy Prince,” which “celebrates an unlikely friendship with his signature wit, humor, and heart. Both stories are intimately staged with actors and puppets. All ages are invited to discover life’s magic transformations: how love makes a family-and imagination finds beauty-in the most unexpected places.”
The Pirate Princess by Lila Rose Kaplan. Directed by Allegra Libonati. Music by Mike Pettry and choreography by Cheryl Turski. Staged by the American Repertory Theater/MXAT Institute for Advanced Theater Training at the Loeb Drama Center, Cambridge, MA, through January 3.
This musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is a “swashbuckling adventure on the high seas. When a giant sea monster destroys their ship, seafaring twins Violet and Victor are torn from one another. Lost in a world of rowdy pirates and lovesick royals, the siblings must be crafty and brave to reunite. Featuring a 40-foot sea monster, daring sword-fights, and a pirate recruitment center for youngsters in the theater’s lobby, this lush world of adventure and danger will be a holiday treat for the whole family.”
Music for Food
December 21 at 7 p.m.
At the Wilson Chapel/Andover Newton Theological School, 210 Herrick Road, Newton, MA
“Lucy Chapman (violin), Guy Fishman (cello), Kim Kashkashian (viola), Ian Watson (harpsichord), and James Winn (flute) perform the Trio Sonata from Bach’s Musical Offering, Three-Part Inventions for string trio, and Chapman’s own arrangement of the a minor solo violin sonata.”
The Weckmann Project: The Schütz Christmas Story
December 26 at 4 and 8 p.m
First Church in Cambridge, 11 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA
“Boston’s The Weckmann Project and New York-based Musica Nuova, which creates theatrical worlds from Baroque song, present The Christmas Story by Heinrich Schütz, in a new staged production that dramatizes the tale.”
– Susan Miron
Rock, Pop, Folk
Midway Café, Jamaica Plain, MA
Yes, he used to be my roommate. I assure you, however, that I do not grade him on a curve or give him extra credit for his having been so. If I am lavish in my praise of his work as a songwriter, it is because he deserves it. I had a few issues with his 2015 album Wedgewood (click for my review), but they had to do with his occasionally overheated rhetoric. (Somewhat to my chagrin, the lyrics of which I was most critical were the same ones that tended to get stuck in my head most often.) The Dorchester-born troubadour will be home for Christmas from sunny L.A. to play early and late sets at Midway Café on December 26.
The beloved Beantown musical institution brings its annual Hometown Throwdown to Lansdowne Street. Two fellow Boston/New England-based bands will take part in the celebration on each of three consecutive nights: The Neighborhoods and The Upper Crust (December 26), The Real Kids and The Queers (December 27), and The Outlets and Stranglehold (December 28).
Marshall Crenshaw the actor has portrayed John Lennon in a production of the Broadway musical Beatlemania and Buddy Holly in the 1987 movie La Bamba. Crenshaw the movie buff is the author of the book Hollywood Rock: A Guide to Rock ‘n’ Roll in the Movies. He started hosting his own radio show, “The Bottomless Pit,” on the New York City station WFUV in 2011. Most importantly, however, he has been a singer-songwriter for three-and-a-half decades, penning some many great tunes that for every better-known one, there are two or three more of equal or even greater caliber. No wonder his best-of compilation is called This Is Easy!: he sure makes it seem like it is. Join him in the intimate confines of Club Passim in Harvard Square on December 29.
– Blake Maddux
Harvard Book Store
December 20 from 10 am to close
In case you’re still scrambling to finish up your holiday shopping, the Harvard Book Store not only has got you covered, it’s will put a portion of your purchase back into the community. On the 20th the store will contribute to selected local organizations, such as 826 Boston, which supports students ages 6-18 with their writing and composition skills; Community Cooks, which mobilizes charitable outreach to vulnerable citizen populations across the city, and Y2Y Harvard Square, which is a student-run homeless shelter that employs a youth-to-youth outreach model in an effort to eradicate homelessness.
– Matt Hanson