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
Blomstedt Conducts Beethoven
Presented by the Boston Symphony Orchestra
March 10-12 and 15, 8 p.m. (1:30 p.m. on Friday)
Symphony Hall, Boston
Springfield, MA, native Herbert Blomstedt returns to Symphony Hall for the first time since 2009, conducting Beethoven’s great, eurythmic Symphony no. 7 and the First Piano Concerto. Garrick Ohlsson, one of the finest Beethoven pianists on the scene today, is the soloist in the latter.
St. John Passion
Presented by the Handel and Haydn Society
March 11 (at 7:30 p.m.) and 13 (at 3 p.m.)
Symphony Hall, Boston
Almost in time for Holy Week, Harry Christophers leads a fantastic cast of soloists – Nicolas Mulroy, Matthew Brook, Sonia DuToit Tengblat, and Emily Marvosh – plus the H&H Period Instrument Orchestra and Chorus in Bach’s landmark Johannes-Passion.
Presented by Boston Lyric Opera
March 11, 13, 16, 18, and 20 at 7:30 p.m. (3 p.m. on Sundays)
Shubert Theater, Boston
A new production–inspired, in part, by Jean Renoir–of Massenet’s adaptation of Goethe comes to Boston via BLO. The cast includes Alex Richardson in the title role, Sandra Piques Eddy as Charlotte, and Rachele Gilmore singing Sophie. David Angus conducts.
Bach, Berg, and Brahms
Presented by the Longwood Symphony Orchestra
March 12, 8 p.m.
Jordan Hall, Boston
Bach’s D-minor Double Concerto and Berg’s aching Violin Concerto share the first half of the LSO’s most recent program, and Brahms’s autumnal Symphony no. 3 comprises the second. Haldan Martinson and Christina Day Martinson are the soloists and Ronald Feldman conducts; this program benefits Healthcare Without Walls.
Paul Revere’s Ride
Presented by Boston Musica Viva
March 13, 3 p.m.
Tsai Performance Center, Boston
Bernard Hoffer’s new ballet, Paul Revere’s Ride, and Prokofiev’s much-loved Peter and the Wolf make up the program for BMV’s annual Family Concert. Steve Aveson narrates both; the former also features the Northeast Youth Ballet.
Presented by Collage New Music
March 13, 8 p.m.
Pickman Hall, Cambridge
CNM wraps up its season with a survey of the music of Elliott Carter, spanning from the immediate World War 2 (the 1942 Elegy for cello and piano) to Figment VI (written in 2011). Among other works on the program are the Sonata for Flute, Oboe, Cello, and Harpsichord; the violin solo, Rhapsodic Musings; and Tempo e tempi.
Orchestre symphonique de Montréal
Presented by Hydro Quebec
March 16, 8 p.m.
Symphony Hall, Boston
Kent Nagano brings the OSM to Boston (his old stomping grounds) with a rich program of showpieces, including The Rite of Spring. The spectacular Daniil Trifonov is the soloist in Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto no. 3; Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun fills out the program.
Academy of St.-Martin-in-the-Fields
Presented by the Celebrity Series
March 20, 3 p.m.
Symphony Hall, Boston
Joshua Bell and Pamela Frank are soloists in Bach’s D-minor Double Concerto, part of a substantial program – a mix of German and Russian favorites – that the ASMF is bringing to Symphony Hall. Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto and Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony are also on the program, as is Beethoven’s post-Classical Symphony no. 8.
– Jonathan Blumhofer
Music for Food
March 14, 8 p.m.
Boston University Concert Hall, 855 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston
Bayla Keyes, along with friends Julia Glenn (violin), Samuel Kelder and Dmitri Murrath (violas), Natasha Brofsky, Hyun-Ji Kwon, and Jan Müller-Szeraws (cellos), and Ya-Fei Chuang (piano) perform Glazunov’s String Quintet, Op. 39, and Schumann’s Piano Quintet, Op. 44.
Music for Royal Occasions
March 18, 8 p.m.
First Lutheran Church, 299 Berkeley Street, Boston
This program of works by Lasso, Festa, Senfl, and others showcases compositions of celebration and lamentation written for the courts of Renaissance Europe.
Handelfest! – Brilliant Anthems and Choruses
March 19, 8 p.m.
First Church Cambridge, 11 Garden Street, Cambridge
This all-Handel evening features his early Dixit Dominus, his Coronation Anthem Zadok the Priest, the chorus “From the Censer Curling Rise” that opens Act II of Solomon, and his Gloria in B-flat Major for solo soprano and strings.
Sibelius Symphony No. 4 / Vaughan Williams Dona Nobis Pacem
Metropolitan Chorale / Brookline Symphony
March 19, 8 p.m. and March 20, 3 p.m.
All Saints Parish, 1773 Beacon Street, Brookline
Sibelius’s stark, unsettling fourth symphony–a premonition, perhaps, of the impending cataclysm of World War I–is paired with his English counterpart’s elegiac, infrequently performed 1936 setting of liturgical and biblical texts mingled with the words of Walt Whitman.
– Susan Miron
In the Shadow of Women
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
A Parisian documentary filmmaker becomes embroiled in a romantic triangle, in this luminous love story from iconoclast and longtime bête noire of French cinema Philippe Garrel. The film evokes the glories of sixties Nouvelle Vague in a beautifully modulated film about the ups and downs of bohemian life in the luminous city of our cinematic dream world. Shot in lustrous black-and-white, the film floats us back to the Paris of Godard’s Vivre sa vie, Truffaut’s Tirez sur la pianiste, Rivette’s Paris nous appartient, and Rohmer’s Le Signe du Lion–a Paris of side streets, bars, and tiny apartments where people live and love, sometimes well and sometimes badly. (TIFF)
Killer of Sheep
March 14, 7 p.m.
Coolidge Corner Theatre, Brookline
Charles Burnett’s classic, Killer of Sheep, examines the black Los Angeles ghetto of Watts in the mid-1970s through the eyes of Stan, a sensitive dreamer who is growing detached and numb from the psychic toll of working at a slaughterhouse. There is a post-screening discussion with Phillip Martin, senior investigative reporter at WGBH, moderating a conversation with Lisa Simmons, founder and president of the Color of Film Collaborative. The screening is a companion to the Huntington Theater’s production of August Wilson’s How I Learned What I Learned.
Dreaming Against The World: Mu Xin In Focus
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Dreaming Against the World is a documentary portrait of Mu Xin, one of the most original and overlooked Chinese artists and authors of the past century. While imprisoned during the Cultural Revolution, he risked his life by making art in solitary confinement. In New York he created an astonishing body of work that merged East and West, the ancient and the modern, terror and transcendence. The 35-minute film will be followed by a panel discussion moderated by author Peter Rand with artist and critic Chen Danqing and filmmakers Tim Sternberg and Francisco Bello; and Nancy Berliner, and Wu Tung.
The 15th Boston Turkish Film Festival
March 17–April 3
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The festival is highlighting emerging and established Turkish filmmakers; many of the screenings will be followed by discussions with the directors. Tolga Karaçelik’s Ivy, which made its world premiere at Sundance, opens the festival. Director Çağan Irmak receives this year’s Boston Turkish Film Festival Excellence in Turkish Cinema Award at a ceremony following the screening of his latest film, A Unique Life. Internationally acclaimed director Zeki Demirkubuz returns to the festival with his latest film, Nausea. Many of the films in this year’s program are award recipients in prestigious international film festivals, including Venice and Tokyo.
A Short Cut to Hell and The Hoodlum
March 18th, 8 p.m. (sharp!)
The Somerville Theatre (screening room), Davis Square, Somerville
Archivists extraordinaire Channel Zero presents a classic film noir double feature:
A Short Cut to Hell (1957) directed by James Cagney. This is the famed actor’s only directorial effort! A taut, punchy crime thriller about a twitchy hitman who gets paid off in stolen money and plots revenge on his former employers!
The Hoodlum (1951). Tarantino’s fave, Lawrence “Reservoir Dogs” Tierney stars as an ex-con who takes a straight job as a means to reassemble his old gang and pull off an armored car heist.
March 19, 6 p.m.
Black Box Theater at the Emerson/Paramount Center, Boston
Emerson’s Reel Life Experience Series presents this film by Keith Miller. After John’s absent father is struck by a stray bullet, Primo takes it upon himself to verse the young boy in the code of the streets—one founded on respect and upheld by fear. A member of the Bloods since the age of 12—both in the film and in reality—the streets of Brooklyn are all Primo has ever known. While John questions whether or not to enter into this life, Primo must decide whether to leave it all behind as he vows to become a better husband and father. Set during those New York summer weeks where the stifling heat seems to encase everything, Five Star plunges into gang culture with searing intensity. There is a post-film discussion with featured artist Taj Stansberry, producer Daryl Freimark and actors John Diaz and James Gran.
Black Radical Imagination
March 20, 3 p.m.
Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
Black Radical Imagination is a touring program of shorts that delve into the worlds of new media, video art, and experimental narrative. Each artist contributes their own vision of postmodern society through the state of current black culture. The screening will be followed by a discussion with curators and featured filmmaker Terence Nance to contemplate the work and its impact on our ever-changing global culture. Nance will lead a workshop for teens in the Fast Forward program in conjunction with this event.
March 20, 6:30 p.m.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Only days after Israel’s Six-Day War in 1967, famed writer Amoz Oz recorded soldiers’ fresh accounts of their war experiences. Now, almost 50 years later, the soldiers listen to their own testimonies for the first time, on camera. Censored Voices brings forth a history that challenges the familiar heroic stories of this period.
Three Shorts: Chaplin, Keaton, Arbuckle
March 21, 7 p.m.
Coolidge Corner Theater, Brookline
Sound of the Silents presents a program of three classic silent short comedies–The Pawnshop, Coney Island, and Easy Street. There will be live accompaniment from Donald Sosin, Joanna Seaton, and their musical ensemble. Along with the films and the performance, they will have an audience sing-along and a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest!
– Tim Jackson
The King of Kings
At Knight Auditorium, Babson College, Wellesley, MA
Bernie Anderson mans the organ for this screening of one of Hollywood’s most eye-popping biblical epics, a 1927 silent directed by Cecil B. DeMille that chronicles the last weeks of Jesus’s life before his crucifixion. The opening and resurrection scenes are in two-color Technicolor. The film is the second in DeMille’s biblical trilogy, preceded by The Ten Commandments (1923) and followed by The Sign of the Cross (1932).
– Bill Marx
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Citi Wang Theatre, Boston
The Celebrity Series of Boston has brought the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to Boston every year since 1968. This athletically charged company remains an American cultural treasure.
Boston Opera House, Boston
Boston Ballet’s latest production highlights choreography by 20th-century masters Balanchine, Forsythe, and Yakobson, along with a comical work by Léonide Massine whose colorful costumes come courtesy of French designer Christian Lacroix.
March 18 & 19, 8 p.m.
Multicultural Arts Center, Cambridge
Paradise Lost: A Movement Collective presents its second evening-length production Replay. The show’s four new works celebrate the company’s fusion of theatrical storytelling and dance.
March 19, 8 p.m.
Berklee Performance Center, Boston
Hailed as “one of the finest soloists in the world today” (The New York Times), Rocío Molina will no doubt display her mastery of the art of modern flamenco.
– Merli V. Guerra
March 16–May 13
Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, NH
The love potion that drives the comically altered affections of the characters in A Midsummer’s Night Dream was made, according to mythology, from a wild pansy struck by a stray Cupid’s arrow. Of course, it is only one of the mischievous herbal concoctions that run through Shakespeare’s plays. In this exhibition, the Currier matches original 16th- and 17th-century texts (some beautifully illustrated) that the Bard may have used for his research, along with film stills and movie memorabilia, to explore how he used potions and remedies in his plays to bring on sleep, love, death, and remembrance.
“The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris”
March 12–June 12
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Actor-writer-musician-comedian Steve Martin, whose first full-length play used Pablo Picasso as a character, is also one of Hollywood’s leading art collectors. Martin adds the title of guest curator to his long list of credits with this exhibition of the work of Canadian modernist Lawren Harris. Harris’s nearly abstract landscapes of frozen mountains and stretches of open water are to the Canadian north what Frederick Church, Albert Bierstadt, and the Hudson River School are to the iconic wild places of the lower 48. Martin has selected some 30 iconic paintings of the 1920s and 30s from the collections of the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto’s leading art museum, as well as from other public and private collections. Because, in these latitudes, the curator is considerably better known than the painter, the show’s organizers perhaps are counting on the celebrity of the former to rub off on the latter.
– Peter Walsh
March 13, 3 p.m.
Pierce Hall, New England Conservatory, Boston
The distinguished bassist and composer Bob Nieske joins forces with trumpeter Phil Grenadier, guitarist Dave Tronzo, and percussionist John Hazilla for this NEC faculty recital of “original compositions, jazz standards, and structured improvisations, reflecting on the musical path of Nieske’s teacher and bandmate Jimmy Giuffre.” And it’s free.
Billed as “Matt Savage Classical Show,” this recital will include the pianist/composer’s Piano Sonata No. 1 in A minor as well as “the world premiere of a three-movement atonal jazz suite, ‘The Forgotten Suite.’ ” Savage, as you may recall, was a Boston-area preteen prodigy who won accolades from the likes of Bobby Watson and Jerry Bergonzi — who also became featured players in his bands. Now 23, Savage has since completed programs at both Berklee and Manhattan School of Music. And, oh yeah, he’s really good.
March 14, 7:30 p.m.
Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory, Boston
The astonishing musical polymath and NEC professor (Contemporary Improvisation Department associate chair) offers a free faculty recital of “folk and contemporary music on voice, violin, viola, fiddle, and percussive dance,” dedicated to the memory of Greg Harbar, “the crazy Houston-area accordion player who introduced her to the world of Eastern European folk music, improvisation, and the wild joy of life.” The program will weave “traditional folk songs and Romany swing in between works by Charles Ives, Pozzi Escot, Max Roach, Woody Guthrie, and Abbey Lincoln.” MacAdam-Somer will be joined by pianist Ran Blake, multi-instrumentalist Hankus Netsky, pianist Sarah Bob, and members of NEC’s CI Chamber Music Ensemble. Sounds like the ultimate CI hoedown.
March 16, 9 p.m.
Ryles, Cambridge, MA
Long one of the finest guitarists in Boston in any idiom, John Stein tonight fronts his “International Quintet”: trumpeter Phil Grenadier, flutist Fernando Brandão, bassist John Lockwood, and drummer Zé Eduardo Nazario. You can expect Stein and company to be digging deep into Brazilian and South African traditions — all informed by American jazz, of course.
March 18 and 19, 8 and 10 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston, MA
The São Paulo-born pianist, composer, and singer Eliane Elias just won a Grammy for “Best Latin Jazz Album,” but her jazz chops extend far and wide (Bill Evans is an important influence, and she’s married to Evans’s former bass player, Marc Johnson, who’s now the linchpin in her bands). Her most recent shows at Scullers, by most accounts, were incendiary.
March 19, 7:30 and 10 p.m.
Regattabar, Cambridge, MA
The Cape Town-born Boston physician and jazz pianist Dr. Stanley Sagov was distracted early on from his medical career by jazz. His early years included playing professionally in New York and studying at New England Conservatory. In the last decade, he’s rededicated himself to jazz, leading various formulations of his Remembering the Future Jazz Band, an unbuttoned crew of like-minded local ringers, playing covers and Sagov’s chewy originals. Tonight’s shows are billed as “Our Love Is Here To Stay,” a Gershwin tribute, with singer Wanetta Jackson, trumpeter Mike Peipman, saxophonist Robert Douglas Gay, bassist John Lockwood, and drummer Bob Gullotti.
– Jon Garelick
Rock, Pop, and Folk
This beloved trio plays country, garage rock, and punk in a fashion that proudly evinces its Murfreesboro, Tennessee, origins. After a decade as a band and the release of one EP and three LPs, Those Darlins announced late last year that it would be taking an “indefinite hiatus.” You may parse that wink wink, nudge nudge phrasing however you want to, but we all know what it means: this Tuesday at Great Scott will probably be the last opportunity that you will have to see the band live in the Boston area.
On March 7, Tal Wilkenfeld opened for The Who in front of several thousand die-hard rock fans at TD Garden. This Friday, the Australia-born bassist will perform for a few hundred perspicacious music lovers at Brighton Music Hall. Musically and visually unmistakable, Wilkenfeld has performed over the past decade (her whole 20s) alongside rock legends such as the Allman Brothers Band and Jeff Beck, the jazz giants Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea, and the contemporary singer-songwriters Macy Gray and Ryan Adams. This is sure to be one of the most musically satisfying shows of the year. (And the next night she will be back with The Who in Newark, NJ.)
The high-schooler in me will never forgive Lucinda Williams for the song “Passionate Kisses.” As a grocery store employee in the early ’90s, I had to hear Mary Chapin Carpenter’s version of this grating—to my teenage ears, at least—song several times a day for several days each week for what seemed like an eternity. In the process of discovering Williams’s work a few years thereafter, I learned that she had written the song that had made my evenings and weekends at work all the less bearable. Thankfully, the adult that I became quickly grew to greatly enjoy, respect, and admire her expert songwriting. Williams’s tour in support of the epic two-disc new album The Ghosts of Highway 20 includes two nights at the Paradise next Monday—which is sold out—and Tuesday.
Upcoming and on sale:
Petty Morals (March 25, Once Ballroom); Eli “Paperboy” Reed (March 30, Brighton Music Hall); Young Fathers (April 1, Great Scott); The Smithereens (April 2, Larcom Theatre); Yuck (April 11, The Sinclair); Iggy Pop (April 11, Orpheum Theatre); Buddy Guy (April 14, The Cabot); Belinda Carlisle (April 15, The Cabot); Parquet Courts (April 15, Paradise Rock Club); Loudon Wainwright III (April 22, Me & Thee Coffeehouse); Bob Mould with Ted Leo (May 1, Paradise Rock Club); Super Furry Animals (The Sinclair, May 3); The Brian Jonestown Massacre (May 7, Paradise Rock Club); Barry & The Remains (May 13, Once Ballroom); The Sonics, The Woggles, Barrence Whitfield & The Savages (June 3, Brighton Music Hall); Nada Surf (June 4, Paradise Rock Club); Diiv (June 7, The Sinclair); Modern English (June 7, Middle East Downstairs); Dungen (June 16, The Sinclair); Bob Dylan and Mavis Staples (July 14, Blue Hills Bank Pavilion); Bryan Ferry (July 31, Blue Hills Bank Pavilion).
– Blake Maddux
Rachel Cantor and Lee Hope
Good on Paper and Horsefever
March 16, 7 p.m.
Newtonville Books, Newton Centre
Cantor’s acclaimed new book tells the story of a woman whose fabulous résumé doesn’t grant her instant happiness or inner peace. Her life is changed utterly when a mysterious Italian poet calls her with information that will change her life forever. Hope’s novel deals with the world of horse racing, and a husband and wife who find themselves caught in the middle of the competition.
Shirin Ebadi in conversation with Swanee Hunt
Until We Are Free: My Fight for Human Rights in Iran
March 17, 7 p.m. (Doors open at 6:30)
First Parish Church, Cambridge
Ebadi is the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel Prize, for her advocacy of women’s rights within modern Iran. The Islamic Republic has tried to silence Ebadi through intimidation, but after the election of Ahmadinejad her persecution intensified. Her phone was tapped, her daughter detained, and she was followed and spied on relentlessly. The event is cosponsored by Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies.
Liberty and Coercion: The Paradox of American Government from the Founding to the Present
March 18, 3 p.m.
Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, MA
For historian Gary Gerstle, American governance is based on a paradox. Many Americans are eager to say they are adamantly opposed to “big government” meddling in their lives. On the other hand, those same libertarian-minded citizens have repeatedly evoked government to help impose their views on marriage, abortion, and religion. Gerstle claims that these contradictory impulses have paralyzed government to the point of dysfunction. See how this impacts the current political scene when he reads in Cambridge.
Sari Wilson in conversation with Joanna Rakoff
Girl Through Glass
March 18, 7 p.m.
Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, MA
As part of Grub Street’s New Voices in Fiction series, debut novelist and ballerina Sari Wilson will read and sign copies of her novel, which portrays a young woman’s initiation into adulthood within the crucible of the cutthroat world of a prominent New York ballet academy.
– Matt Hanson
Roots and World Music
New Sounds for Silk Strings
Yi Ji-Young & DoYeon Kim
March 16, 7:30 p.m.
Jewett Art Center Auditorium, Wellesley, MA
A free concert of contemporary and traditional Korean music with Yi Ji-Young & DoYeon Kim, two masters of the zither-like gayageum.
This sharp five-piece Balkan brass band releases its second CD, Round Two, with help from two even larger brass units: the Afro-Funk of the Big Mean Sound Machine and Honk! gonzos Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band.
Stave Sessions: Sam Amidon and Glenn Kotche
March 18, 8:30 p.m.
160 Mass Ave., Boston, MA
The scion to a family of Vermont folk singers, Amidon sings old-time ballads in an endearingly awkward and highly moving manner. His stage patter is just as off-kilter. Tonight he shares a bill with Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche as part of the Celebrity Series’s eclectic Stave Sessions. Both artists will perform solo and then together.
Fleeting: An evening with Glenn Jones plus Laura Baird
March 19, 8 p.m.
Arts at the Armory Cafe, Somerville, MA
It’s a guitarist’s world, but few have found as eloquent a voice on the six-string as Boston guitarist Glenn Jones. A worthy heir to the “American Primitive” tradition founded by the likes of John Fahey, Jones celebrates the release of his new LP Fleeting.
Rosario “La Tremendita” and Mohammad Motamedi: Qasida
March 20, 7:30 p.m.
Berklee Performance Center, Boston, MA
The Spanish flamenco sound owes a significant debt to Persian poetry and music traditions. A new project, Quasida, brings the two worlds together through Spanish singer La Tremendita and Iran’s Motamedi plus six other musicians.
– Noah Schaffer
Revels Spring Sing: A Family Celebration of the Vernal Equinox
At Grace Vision Church, 80 Mt. Auburn Street, Watertown, MA
“Revels welcomes the greener season with two giant communal sing-alongs plus other seasonal entertainments including musical performances by frequent Revels performer David Coffin, gospel singer Janice Allen, the talented 30-member Revels Alumni Youth Chorus, and a fabulous folk band.” Outgoing Revels music director George Emlen is your host.
– Bill Marx
The Beckett Trilogy: Not I/Footfalls/Rockaby by Samuel Beckett. Directed by Walter Asmus. Presented by Arts Emerson at the Emerson/Paramount MainStage, 559 Washington Street, Boston, March 16 through 20.
A much ballyhooed production of Beckett pieces performed by Lisa Dwan, “who drew ecstatic reviews for her performances at BAM, the Royal Court Theatre and in the West End.” If this evening comes close to its critical hosannas it will be something. If nothing else, it will be a welcome poetic counterweight to the current prosaic fad in Boston theater for inspirational entertainments, political pick-me-ups, and immersive circuses.
Richard II by William Shakespeare. Directed by Allyn Burrows. At YMCA Central Square, Cambridge, through March 13.
Written entirely in verse, this history play “is a compelling and provocative study of a king and his nation, caught in the upheaval of social change and political turmoil.” The impressive local cast includes Paula Plum, Robert Walsh, Doug Lockwood, Michael Forden Walker, and Marya Lowry.
Cakewalk by Colleen Curran. Directed by David J. Miller. Staged by the Zeitgeist Stage Company at the Plaza Black Box Theater at the Boston Center for the Arts, Boston, through March 19.
Foodies, this one may well be for you! The script “portrays the traditional cake baking competition in a small Vermont town during their July 4th festivities. The contestants include a nun, a driven Cub Scout leader, owner of the local organic café, the Mother-of-the-Bride, and the only male entry, an archaeologist. While waiting for the competition to get underway, sparks fly and nerves are frayed, especially from the bride, who does not want her cake in competition.” Arts Fuse review
Rhinoceros by Eugene Ionesco. Translated by Derek Prouse. Adapted and directed by Wesley Savick. A coproduction of the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre with Suffolk University at the Modern Theater, 525 Washington Street Boston, through March 13.
An update of the Cold War absurdist classic. “Sunny afternoon. Newbury Street. Meeting a friend for coffee. You’re borderline depressed…crappy job, too neurotic to make the first move with a “good pal” coworker, wallowing in self-pity…and maybe just a little hungover. Everything is normal. And all at once, everyone you know turns into a rhinoceros.” Sounds plausible to me … Arts Fuse review
Fast Company by Carla Ching. Directed M. Bevin O’Gara. Staged by the Lyric Stage Company of Boston, 140 Clarendon Street, Copley Square, Boston, through March 27.
“Wait till you meet Blue and HER family … Blue’s mom, Mable Kwan, is a tough cookie and the best grifter who ever lived . . . and she raised her kids to be just like her. Son Francis is the top roper around and H is the number one fixer. But it’s Blue — the outcast of the family — who surprises everyone by putting together the score of the decade.” Billed as “a fast, funny, and dangerous theatrical crime caper that will keep you guessing about who’s on top and who’s getting conned.” Arts Fuse review
Sorry by Richard Nelson. Directed by Weylin Symes. Staged by Stoneham Theatre at 395 Main Street, Stoneham, MA, through March 13.
The third of Nelson’s The Apple Family Plays “journeys deeper into the characters we’ve come to know and love in this emotional and pivotal point of his four-play series. It’s Election Day 2012, and the close-knit Apple family gathers in Rhinebeck, NY, once again in an act of solidarity to face putting their beloved elderly uncle into a nursing home.” The impressive cast includes Karen MacDonald as Barbara Apple, Bill Mootos as Richard Apple, Sarah Newhouse as Marian Apple Platt, Laura Latreille as Jane Apple Halls, and Joel Colodner as the aging Uncle Benjamin Apple.
The Hypocrites’ H.M.S. Pinafore, adapted by Sean Graney from the operetta by Gilbert & Sullivan. Co-directed by Sean Graney and Thrisa Hodits. Presented by American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) and Oberon at 2 Arrow Street, Cambridge, through March 20.
“The Chicago-based company The Hypocrites, whose previous visits to the A.R.T. include their reimaginings of The Mikado, The Pirates of Penzance, Romeo Juliet, and 12 Nights, set their sights now on the 1878 operetta, infusing the absurdist comedy of W.S. Gilbert’s libretto with Monty Python clownishness, and bringing a folk/pop interpretation to Arthur Sullivan’s lovely, lilting melodies.” This is the third and final installment of the Gilbert & Sullivan trilogy. Note: This is a General Admission show. Please note that H.M.S Pinafore has no fixed seats. You can physically move around the space with the actors, where there are surfaces on the set you can rest, but you may be asked to move during the performance.
A Southern Victory–A Trilogy by Kevin Mullins. Directed by James Peter Soltis. Staged by Vagabond Theatre Group at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, 949 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, through March 26.
What promises to be a provocative drama that explores an alternative version of history. “The year is 1922. Slavery thrives in the Confederacy while prohibition occupies the United States. A tense stalemate between the two countries is quickly be eroded by the eruption of John Brown’s army, a cadre of militant prohibitionists detonating themselves in Southern cities in the name of freedom.” A Southern Victory has been named a finalist for a Princess Grace Award, and recognized as a finalist at the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference and the PlayPenn New Play Development Conference.
How I Learned What I Learned, co-conceived and directed by Todd Kreidler. Staged by the Huntington Theatre Company at the Avenue of the Arts/Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston, through April 12.
A one-man show featuring Eugene Lee in which the “late Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson shares stories about his first few jobs, a stint in jail, his lifelong friends, and his encounters with racism, music, and love as a young poet in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. This theatrical memoir charts one man’s journey of self-discovery through adversity, and what it means to be a black artist in America.” Arts Fuse review
The Launch Prize by MJ Halberstadt. Directed by Tiffany Nichole Greene. Staged by the Bridge Repertory Theater of Boston at Deane Hall, the 2nd floor of the Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts, Boston, through March 20.
Sounds like yet another attempt to shed light on debate about the arts, value, and identity politics. “In this fast-paced new play, the gloves come off when one of four visual arts students asserts that the winner of the prestigious Launch Prize has been chosen on the basis of racial and gender identity, rather than talent or merit alone… “
Bootycandy by Robert O’Hara. Directed by Summer L. Williams. Staged by the SpeakEasy Stage Company at the Boston Center for the Arts, Boston, through April 9.
“Named one of the Top Ten Plays of 2014 by The New York Times, Bootycandy “is a shockingly funny and saucy spin on race, sex, and sexuality. Based on the author’s own experiences growing up black and gay, the play unfolds in a series of loosely linked vignettes that take no prisoners when confronting racial, sexual, and cultural stereotypes.”
Medea by Euripides. An adaptation by Ben Power. Directed by Catherine Bertrand. Staged by the Salem Theatre Company, 35 Congress Street, 3rd Floor, Salem, MA, through March 26.
If you want to break in a new theater space, this magnificent tragedy is a pretty good way to do it. Regarding the relevance of the play, director Bertrand says “It’s been two thousand years since Euripides first penned Medea and yet women are still stuck every day navigating a society optimized for men. The play grapples with tropes that resound across the centuries: domestic violence, subverting gender roles, and the decay of once-healthy communities.”
Tales of a Fourth Grade Lesbo by Gina Young. Directed by Mariagrazia LaFauci. Staged by Flat Earth Theatre at the Arsenal Center for the Arts, Watertown, MA, through March 26.
“The East Coast premiere of a nostalgic examination of gender and sexuality.” The play “explores what it means to grow up a queer woman in the ’90s through the eyes of those who have lived it. There are rules in this universe: seventh graders always win dance competitions, lunch table divisions are absolute, and there is only one right way to wear a backpack. Through vignettes, dance, and original song parody, our three storytellers navigate the wilderness of leopard-print leotards and Jane Fonda workout videos as they relive the awkwardness of early sexual awakenings in a humor- and nostalgia-filled pastiche of early ’90s pop culture that thoughtfully captures the joy and torment of adolescence.”
Hanna Azoulay-Hasfari: In Residence at Israeli Stage. At various stages, March 20 through April 3.
“Hanna Azoulay-Hasfari is one of Israel’s leading playwrights and filmmakers and she is Israeli Stage’s first Sephardic (Moroccan-Israeli) playwright in residence.” The line-up of activities include “a workshop of a brand new play called Dina that will culminate in two World Premiere performances April 1 & 3 featuring Boston performers Maureen Keiller, Jeremiah Kissel, Dale Place and Pat Shea and Shanae Burch (Milk Like Sugar). While in residence, Azulay-Hasfari will be lecturing at Emerson College (March 29), Northeastern University, and Wellesley College, and will lead dialogue reflections at Brandeis University (April 1) and Boston University (April 3).”
The Realness: a break beat play by Idris Goodwin. Directed by Wendy Goldberg. Staged by the Merrimack Repertory Theatre, 50 East Merrimack Street, Lowell, MA, March 16 through April 12.
“The love story at the center of The Realness lets us view the seismic events of the mid-90’s hip-hop scene insightfully, through a compassionate human lens. Audiences will see this world through the eyes of T.O., who immerses himself in the hip-hop culture he’s only observed from the safety of the suburbs, and falls hard for a captivating MC.”
Mistero Buffo by Dario Fo. A new American translation by Bob Scanlan and Walter Valeri. Directed by Scanlan. Produced in partnership with Suffolk University with support from Italy in US & Back Deck, staged by the Poets’ Theatre at the Modern Theatre at Suffolk University, 525 Washington Street, Boston, March 18 through 26.
This production is part of a Festival celebrating the 90th birthday of Italian Nobel Laureate Dario Fo. The play “revives the Medieval Mystery Play, with side-splitting modern interpretations of stories from the Gospels. But these ‘mysteries’ turn these familiar tales upside down.” The high-powered cast includes Remo Airaldi, Benjamin Evett, and Debra Wise. The staging promises to be a satiric treat with all the blasphemous trimmings.
Blues for Mister Charlie by James Baldwin. Directed by Brian McEleney. Staged by the Trinity Repertory Company at The Chace Theater, Providence, RI, March 18 through April 1.
I refuse to highlight the Trinity Repertory Company’s current production of the weary warhorse To Kill a Mockingbird. I wrote a column about the absurdity of producing an adaptation of the Harper Lee novel, especially in a season supposedly dedicated to “Rebels, Renegades, and Pioneers.” Perhaps embarrassed by the choice once it was publicly announced, the theater decided to schedule a production of the Baldwin play as a “companion piece.” It is receiving a limited run (3 performances), but it is good to have another perspective in an age of Black Lives Matter.
– Bill Marx