Dec 042016

Arts Fuse critics select the best in theater, visual arts, film, music, author events, and dance for the coming week.

By The Arts Fuse Staff


Boston Area Film Schedules—What Is Playing Today, Where, and When

National Bird
December 15, 7 p.m.
UMass Boston Campus Center Ballroom, 3rd Floor, Boston, MA

This documentary serves as a terrific companion to Do Not Resist. It explores the controversial tactic of drone warfare, examining the personal accounts—recollections, traumas, and responses—of three American military veterans whose lives have been shaken by the roles they played in this controversial method of combat. Plagued by guilt over participating in the killing of faceless people in foreign countries, these vets are determined to break the silence surrounding one of the most controversial issues of our time. In-person Q&A with director, Sonia Kennebeck. Free. Trailer.

The Dekalog
through December 15
Brattle Theater, Cambridge, MA

Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Dekalog is one of the masterworks of modern cinema. The work consists of 10 parts, each running about an hour. Though recently released on Blu-Ray, this is a rare opportunity to see one of the glories of modern cinema restored on the cinema screen. See the theater’s schedule for show times of the various chapters.

Decalogue 1
“I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
Krzysztof introduces his small son, Pawel, to the mysteries of the personal computer, a machine which he believes is infallible.

Decalogue 2
“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”
Dorota visits Andrzej, her dying husband, in the hospital. She is pregnant – this might be the last chance for her to have a baby – but not by him.

Decalogue 3
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”
Christmas Eve, a night when families are together and nobody wants to be alone. Ewa tricks Janusz, her ex-lover, away from his family and under various pretexts tries to keep him with her for the night.

Decalogue 4
“Honor thy father and thy mother.”
Anka is 20 years old. Her mother is dead and she lives with Michal, her father. They get on well together. Michal has to go on a trip abroad. While he is away, Anka finds an envelope in her father’s room: ‘Not to be opened before my death.’

Decalogue 5
“Thou shalt not kill.”
A youth randomly and brutally murders a taxi-driver. Piotr has just passed his law exams and been admitted to the bar. He is to defend Jacek, the young murderer.

Decalogue 6
“Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
Tomek, a young post office worker, is obsessed with Magda, the promiscuous woman who lives in the tower block opposite him. He spies on her through a telescope and finally declares his love.

Decalogue 7
“Thou shalt not steal.”
Six-year-old Ania is being brought up by Ewa in the belief that Majka, Ewa’s daughter, is her sister, whereas Majka is really her mother. Tired of living this lie and desperate to have Ania love her as a mother, Majka ‘kidnaps’ Ania and runs away from her parents.

Decalogue 8
“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”
Elzbieta, researching the fate of Jewish war survivors, is visiting from New York and sits in on lectures in ethics at the University of Warsaw. She approaches Zofia, the professor, and tells her that she is the little Jewish girl whom Zofia refused to shelter from the Nazis during the occupation.

Decalogue 9
“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house.”
Roman learns he’s impotent. Recognizing his wife, Hankas’s, sexual needs, he encourages her to take a lover. She is reluctant; she loves Roman, but does have an affair with Mariusz, a student.

Decalogue 10
“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maid, nor his goods, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”
A man dies leaving an extremely valuable stamp collection to his two sons, Jerzy and Artur. Although they know very little about stamps, they are unwilling to sell. They learn that a very rare stamp is needed to complete the valuable set. To acquire the stamp, Jerzy donates his kidney – the man in possession of the stamp is in need of a kidney for his daughter.

Sad Vacation
through December 15
Regent Theatre, Arlington, MA

Danny Garcia’s latest documentary explores Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen’s fateful trip to New York in 1978. The film is dedicated to presenting facts rather than legend; the narrative is guided by the pair’s friends and those who witnessed what happened. The dynamics of Sid and Nancy’s tumultuous relationship is at the center of this story, culminating on how it all ended in Room 100 of the Chelsea Hotel. It includes interviews with Roberta Bayley, Steve “Roadent” Conolly, Donna Destri, Kenny “Stinker” Gordon, and others. Garcia also draws on newly-released grand jury documents.

– Tim Jackson


David Parker and The Bang Group's Nut/Cracked. Photo: Yi-Chun Wu.

David Parker and The Bang Group’s Nut/Cracked. Photo: Yi-Chun Wu.

Gumdrops & The Funny Uncle; Nut/Cracked
December 14 through 18
Black Box Theater, Boston Center for the Arts, Boston, MA

Peter DiMuro / Public Displays of Motion’s Gumdrops & The Funny Uncle and David Parker and The Bang Group’s Nut/Cracked come together to perform in repertory. Each proffers a festive Nutcracker alternative, with Gumdrops & The Funny Uncle celebrating families of all kinds with the LGBTQ community in mind, and Nut/Cracked pairing the traditional Tchaikovsky Nutcracker score with an array of witty vignettes incorporating pointe, tap, and the sucking of thumbs.

What the Dickens!
December 16 through 18
Boston University Dance Theater, Boston, MA

This reimagined version of A Christmas Carol features Cambridge Youth Dance Program, led by CYDP founder Deborah Mason and Broadway veteran Leslie Woodies. The result is an urban musical with choreography by Mason, Woodies, and Khalid Hill, and appearances by professional guest performers in tap, African dance, flamenco, and more.

Urban Nutcracker
December 16 through 31
John Hancock Hall, Boston, MA

Tony William’s Urban Nutcracker has delighted Boston audiences since 2001; it features a mixture of Duke Ellington and Tchaikovsky, ballet and hip-hop. The aim is to draw on the many cultures that make Boston such a vibrant city.

– Merli V Guerra


Straight White Men by Young Jean Lee. Directed by Vince Petronio. Di and Viv and Rose ​by Amelia Bulmore. Directed by Kate Kataja. Both productions are running in rep. Staged by the Wilbury Group at the Trinity Square Theater at the Southside Cultural Center, Providence, Rhode Island, through December 23.

Two scripts from contemporary playwrights that, as least according to the New York Times and NPR pundits, serve up edgy entertainment. Jean Lee’s play is “a razor-sharp comedy that confronts the complexities of identity and hypocrisies of privilege.” Bulmore’s script “spans the years, and spins the yarns to evoke a story of enduring friendship that is undoubtedly one of the most moving tales to hit the stage in many years.” Arts Fuse review

D'Lon Grant (center) and members of the cast of the SpeakEasy Stage production of "The Scottsboro Boys." Photo: Hawver/Nile Scott Shots.

D’Lon Grant (center) and members of the cast of the SpeakEasy Stage production of “The Scottsboro Boys.” Photo: Hawver/Nile Scott Shots.

The Scottsboro Boys, music and lyrics by John Kander & Fred Ebb. Book by David Thompson. Directed by Paul Daigneault. Music direction by Matthew Stern. Choreography by Ilyse Robbins. Staged by SpeakEasy Stage Company at the Boston Center for the Arts, Boston, MA, through January 22 2017.

“In this, their final collaboration, legendary songwriting team John Kander and Fred Ebb (Cabaret, Chicago) bring to light one of the most infamous events in American history: the shocking true story of nine African American boys jailed in Alabama in 1931 for a crime they did not commit.” Arts Fuse review

Fingersmith, written by Alexa Junge. Based on the novel by Sarah Waters. Directed by Bill Rauch. Staged by the American Repertory Theater at the Loeb Drama Center, Cambridge, MA, through January 8, 2017.

The New England premiere of what sounds like an exercise in Victorian escapism: “The job seems simple at first: all pickpocket Sue Trinder has to do is help a con man cheat a gullible young heiress out of her fortune. But nothing is quite what it seems in this mystery set in the shadows of Victorian England. Spiraling through London streets, madhouses, and a stifling mansion with a shocking secret, Sue finds herself in the most dangerous landscape of all: awakening sexuality, love, and betrayal.”

A glimpse of "Murder for Two" at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston.

A glimpse of “Murder for Two” at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston.

Murder for Two, Book & Music by Joe Kinosian. Book & Lyrics by Kellen Blair. Directed by A. Nora Long. Music Director, Bethany Aiken. Choreographer, David Connolly. At the Lyric Stage Company of Boston, 140 Clarendon Street, Copley Square, Boston, MA, through December 24.

In this musical murder mystery, “one actor plays the detective and one actor plays all the suspects … and they both play the piano!” This is a “homage to old-fashioned closed-room murder mysteries (think Clue!), a delirious gift for two multi-talented actors.” A holiday entertainment for which the Lyric Stage has selected one of my favorite blurbs of the year: “Murder for Two could get belly laughs from a corpse!” ― Time Out Chicago

Journey to the West, adaptation by Mary Zimmerman of the novel of the same name. Directed by Lee Mikeska Gardner. Staged by the Nora Theatre Company at the Central Square Theater, Cambridge, MA, through December 31.

“In the beloved comic Chinese novel a monk travels from China to India in search of spiritual enlightenment and Buddhist scriptures. Mary Zimmerman’s (Candide, Metamorphosis) adaptation delivers whimsy, delight, and a combination of comedy, adventure, and satire mixed with a mystical dreamscape filled with lyrical beauty.”

Murder on the Polar Express written by Ryan Landry. Staged by the Gold Dust Orphans at Machine, 1254 Boylston Street, Boston, MA, through December 21.

Camp holiday entertainment: “A gorgeous train! Toe tapping tunes! And a stellar cast of Christmas “big-wigs” so filled with madness, mirth and murderous intent, they’d make Miss Marple wanna plotz in Jessica Fletcher’s “Depends”!”

Matchless & The Happy Prince by Gregory Maguire, an adaptation of stories by Hans Christian Andersen and Oscar Wilde. Directed by Debra Wise. Staged by the Underground Railway Theatre at the Central Square Theater, Cambridge, MA, through December 31.

A revival of last year’s holiday entry for URT: “Intimate, innovative storytelling animates found objects into puppets and transforms the everyday into a city of dreams. Enchanting for all ages, come discover magic and beauty in the most unexpected places.”

The Tempest by William Shakespeare. Directed by Allyn Burrows. Staged by the Actors Shakespeare Project at the Willet Hall at United Parish, Brookline, MA, through January 8, 2017.

One of my favorite lines from this great play: “My foot my tutor?” German dramatist Peter Handke used it for the title of one of his scripts.

Faithless by Andrew Joseph Clarke. Directed by Stephen Pick. A BU New Play Initiative production, produced by Boston Playwrights’ Theatre and the Boston University College of Fine Arts School of Theatre at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, 949 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA, through December 18.

The sudsy sounding plot:”Two generations of an Irish-American family gather in a hospital waiting room while awaiting the passing of their family matriarch. But when black sheep Skip unexpectedly returns, decades of baggage surface. A funny and moving look at family, faith, and forgiveness.”

Going to See the Kid by Steven Drukman. Directed by Alexander Greenfield. Staged by the Merrimack Repertory Theatre, 50 East Merrimack Street, Lowell, MA, through December 24.

A world premiere production of a baseball yarn for the holidays. “On the assignment of a lifetime, two reporters head for Florida at Christmastime, trying to land a final interview with aging Red Sox legend Ted Williams. One’s a rookie; the other, a seasoned pro. And both will learn the inestimable value of teammates — on and off the field.”

The Christmas Revels: An Acadian-Cajun Celebration of the Winter Solstice. directed by Patrick Swanson. Megan Henderson, Music Director. Staged by Revels at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre, Cambridge, MA, through December 27.

“A family holiday tradition for more than four decades, The Christmas Revels travels to a different time and place each year. This year’s solstice celebration follows the original Acadians, the French immigrants who settled on the Canadian border but were later expelled by the British and found a new home along the Louisiana bayou … Filled with toe-tapping fiddle tunes, lilting Cajun two steps, gorgeous anthems, audience participation, and familiar Revels touchstones like the Sussex Mummers Carol and Lord of the Dance.”

– Bill Marx

Visual Arts

Inventing Impressionism
through June 11, 2017
RISD Museum, Providence, RI

Although the Impressionists are probably best known as artists who painted haystacks, churches, water, flowers, and ballet dancers in loosely stroked, fresh colors, their real innovation was to show contemporary life in all its messy, Steam Age glory. This exhibition, drawn from the RISD collection, focuses on the innovative use of materials, techniques, and subject matter in the work of Paul Cézanne, Camille Pissarro, Berthe Morisot, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Mary Cassatt, among other artists. Featured are rarely seen works on paper, including Degas’s arresting pastel group portrait, Six Friends at Dieppe, and Monet’s A Walk in the Meadows at Argenteuil, a recent gift to the museum.

Embodied Absence: Chilean Art of the 1970s Now
through January 8, 2017
Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Cambridge, MA

Following the 1973 right-wing coup that ended the Marxist presidency of Dr. Salvador Allende, Chilean artists were forced into a kind of half-life, living abroad or underground, working under pseudonyms, exhibiting in public spaces or artist-run galleries, making a coded art to avoid the censors. This exhibition and related performance series, co-organized with Harvard’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies in collaboration with contemporary Chilean artists who are confronting an elusive cultural past, documents a largely ephemeral art movement, whose works often disappeared as soon as they appeared.

2016 Biennial
through January 24, 2017
Center for Maine Contemporary Art, Rockport, ME

Last June, the Center for Maine Contemporary Art opened a stunning new home, designed by the international award-winning architect Toshiko Mori, in Rockland, Maine’s booming art district. The CMCA’s biennial, held in the fall of every even-digit year, opens in the new building for the first time this November. The selection for this Down East salon includes more than a dozen artists, hailing, near and far, from Lewiston and Portland to Eastport and Spruce Head.

– Peter Walsh

Classical Music

Christmas Concert
Presented by the Bach, Beethoven, & Brahms Society Orchestra
December 19, 6 p.m.
Faneuil Hall, Boston, MA

Wind serenades by Mozart and Dvorak preface a carol sing-along led by members of VOICES Boston and the Apollo Club.

– Jonathan Blumhofer

Wonder Reborn
December 12 at 7:30 p.m.
Presented by New England Conservatory at Jordan Hall/New England Conservatory, 290 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA

The NEC Concert Choir, NEC Symphony, NEC Chamber Orchestra, and NEC Chamber Singers present a holiday program that includes Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248, and Handel’s Messiah, HWV 56 (Part 1 and the Hallelujah Chorus). “An unusual feature of this concert is that the Handel work will be performed without conductor and the choir will be singing from memory.”

Blue Heron Renaissance Choir/ Christmas in 15th-Century France & Burgundy
December 16 at 8 p.m.
December 17 at 2:30 and 8 p.m.
At the First Church in Cambridge, 11 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA

“From the penitential season of Advent through Christmas rejoicing and on to the festive gift-giving celebration of New Year’s Day, this program offers a captivating mix of mysticism and merriment, with music by the greatest French and Flemish musicians of the fifteenth century—Guillaume Du Fay, Johannes Regis, Josquin Desprez, Jacob Obrecht, Antoine Brumel, and others.”

A Seasonal Celebration
December 16 at 8 p.m.
At Cary Hall, 1605 Massachusetts Avenue, Lexington, MA
December 17 at 8 p.m.
St. Paul Church Cambridge, 29 Mt. Auburn Street, Cambridge, MA

On the program for The Cantata Singers: “Hear Hugo Distler’s sublime choral variations on “Es is ein Ros,” Arnold Schoenberg’s uplifting “Friede auf Erden,” two motets by Heinrich Schütz, and Claudio Monteverdi’s captivating “Laetatus Sum” and “Gloria a 7,” both for soloists, chorus, two violins, bassoon, trombones, and continuo.

Music for Food Boston/From Bach to Berio
December 18 at 7:30 p.m.
At Brown Hall/New England Conservatory, 290 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA

On the program: Beethoven’s Piano Trio, Op. 1, No. 1; Schubert’s Piano Trio No. 2 in E-flat, D. 929; Schubert’s Piano Trio No. 2 in E-flat, D. 929, and Berio’s Sequenza IV. Suggested Donation: $25, $10 students. All proceeds benefit The Women’s Lunch Place.

– Susan Miron


Allison Burik Quartet + Umbrella Pine + Magdalena Abrego Quartet
December 12 at 8:30 p.m.
Outpost 186, Cambridge, MA.

The adventurous tenor saxophonist and composer Allison Burik is the common denominator in this three-band bill. Her music combines elements of folk, boppish jazz flow, rock grooves, and free-form daring. Joining Burik in the quartet are guitarist and composer, Magdalena Abrego, bassist Seulgi Hwang, and drummer Willis Edmundson. Umbrella Pine is the duo of Burik and Abrego, and the Magdalena Abrego Quartet features Burik, Hwang, and drummer James Davis.

Charlie Kohlhase’s Explorers Club
December 15 at 8 p.m.
Outpost 186, Cambridge, MA

Multi-reed player and composer Charlie Kohlhase convenes the latest iteration of his longstanding Explorers Club, with tenor and alto man Seth Meicht, trumpeter and flugelhornist Daniel Rosenthal, guitarist Eric Hofbauer, tubist Josiah Reibstein, bassist Aaron Darrell, and drummer Curt Newton.

Kurt Elling
December 16 and 17 at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston, MA.

Singer Kurt Elling has always pushed his capacious baritone and formidable chops beyond mainstream comforts (his collaborators have included John Hollenbeck and Branford Marsalis), and his first-ever Christmas album, The Beautiful Day (Okeh) is no exception — drummer Kendrick Scott, for example, lays down a New Orleans second-line rhythm for “Little Drummer Boy.” Expect the like over the course of these four shows at Scullers, as well as some non-Christmas fare.

Joanna Wallfisch
December 17 at 4:30 p.m.
Lilypad, Cambridge, MA.

The celebrated, phenomenally gifted British singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Joanna Wallfisch hits the little Lilypad for a late afternoon show. Here’s where distinctions among folk, jazz, and classical art song dissolve.

New Sounds in American Music:
Ran Blake & Lukas Papenfusscline
Sami Stevens & Steven Bilodeau
December 17 at 7:30 p.m.
Lilypad, Cambridge, MA.

The octogenarian guru of Third Stream innovation (back when innovation had a good name) at New England Conservatory, Ran Blake explores the many strains of American music and improvisation with a young cohort — joining North Carolina-born guitarist, pianist, and and singer Lukas Papenfusscline along with the duo of New York-based singer Sami Stevens and guitarist Steven Bilodeau.

Wallace Roney
December 18 at 8 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston, MA.

Roney, now 56, hit stardom after playing in the bands of Tony Williams and Art Blakey, and — despite unavoidable comparisons to his friend Miles Davis — still plays with fire, nuance, and invention.

– Jon Garelick

David Crosby
December 12 (show at 8 p.m.)
The Wilbur, Boston, MA

As a member of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash (and sometimes Young), David Crosby is a two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. He has also recorded as half of a duo with Graham Nash and as a solo artist in a career that has spanned six decades. In October, the 75-year-old released a new album, Lighthouse. The David Crosby & Friends tour comes to The Wilbur on December 12. Arts Fuse preview

Rick Springfield
December 17 (doors at 7, show at 8; rescheduled from November 25)
The Cabot, Beverly, MA

Maybe Mr. Springfield (click here for the email interview that I did with him) had too much to eat on Thanksgiving, as he had to cancel his November 25 date at The Cabot due to illness. Thankfully, he promptly rescheduled and will be performing there on Friday, December 17.

Kristin Hersh
December 18 (doors at 7, show at 8)
The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA

Kristin Hersh formed the band Throwing Muses in Newport, RI when she was 14 and moved to Boston in the mid-1980s. That group recorded seven albums together before breaking up in 1998, another in 2003, and another in 2013. Hersh has released nine full-length albums under her own name and one LP (and several EPs, including this year’s Bath White) as the leader of the trio 50FootWave. Slacker that she is (#sarcasm), she is also the author of a children’s book called Toby Snax, Rat Girl: A Memoir (2012), and Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt (2015). Her just-released Wyatt at the Coyote Palace contains 24 songs and an accompanying book that includes lyrics along with brief snippets of prose. Be at The Sinclair on December 18 to take in some of all that Hersh has offered over the past three decades.

– Blake Maddux

World Music and Roots

Morgan Heritage
December 14
Kay’s Oasis, Dorchester, MA

While they might be Jamaica’s favorite roots reggae family, the Morgan Heritage siblings actually got their start growing up in Massachusetts. An Arts Fuse interview with the group.

– Noah Schaffer

Author Events


George Scialabba
Low Dishonest Decades: Essays & Reviews 1980-2015
December 12 at 7 p.m.
Harvard Book Store, Cambridge MA

Boston’s own Scialabba (and Arts Fuse contributor) is one of America’s most respected literary and political critics, praised by David Bromwich as “a keeper of the conscience of American radicalism.” He will come to the Harvard Book Store to read from this lucid, engaging, and thoughtful gathering of essays, culled from the last few decades of political combustibility.

– Matt Hanson


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