Arts Fuse critics select the best in music, film, theater, and author readings for the coming week.
By The Arts Fuse Staff
We Always Talk To Strangers
Monday, December 1, at 7 p.m.
Brattle Theatre Cambridge, MA
The DocYard series screens a documentary that takes an entertaining and personal look at Branson, Missouri, the “live music capital of the world” A conversation with co-director David Wilson and filmmaker Jane Gillooly follows the screening. Arts Fuse Review
This small Australian feminist horror film was the buzz at Sundance and premiered to accliam in Boston at the Independent Film Festival this past April. On NPR, Caetlin Benson-Allott, a professor at Georgetown who studies the genre of horror, said this about the film: “The Babadook brings something fresh and unexpected to the genre – that being a mother is hard. That sometimes you hate your child and don’t know how to cope. That was something I don’t think we’ve seen in horror before. This is a film about making your own monsters and the damage we do to our families, and within our families.”
December 7, 21, 27, 28 at Noon
The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA
(For additional dates see schedule)
Established in 1976, this is a gathering of the best television, online, outdoor, and cinema commercials produced by British advertising agencies and production companies. Charged with keeping our fingers off of our remote controls, those who make commercials have gotten pretty amazing at their craft. This should be a great show of visual artistry and commerce. This program is screening in only 10 cities.
— Tim Jackson
Sunday, November 30, 10 p.m. – Monday December 1, 2014, 24-hour vigil
Fort Independence, Castle Island South Boston, MA
Dance has deep roots in human ritual, and Michael Dowling’s Medicine Wheel, an annual event commemorating loss and creating a serene space for contemplation, is a vigil first established to mark World AIDS Day. As the 24-hour event goes on, chanting by Coptic deacons and Buddist monks will be jointed by semi-improvised moves by Kairos Dance that focus on the element of fire. Offerings left from the past 22 Medicine Wheels will be burned to send dreams and prayers to heaven.
Luminarium The Sleeprunner
December 5,6 and 12, 13
Multicultural Arts Center, Cambridge, MA
In a full-length program that explores the journey to the land of Nod, this four-year old troupe led by Merli V. Guerra and Kimberleigh A. Holman offers a multimedia work costumed by New York designer Sueann Leung.
Angaje Sneak Peek with Jean Appolon Expressions
Saturday, December 6
Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA
Reacting to the recent surge in violence against homosexual men in Haiti, BCA Dance Residency awardees Jean Appolon Expressions present a preliminary version )ahead of their mainstage presentation in March) of an evening-long work featuring recordings by Toto Bissainthe and live percussion.
— Debra Cash
November 28-29, 8 p.m. + 10 p.m., November 30, 4 p.m. + 7 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston
The dynamo Cuban trumpeter, pianist, and composer Arturo Sandoval spends a whirlwind weekend at Scullers, including Sunday matinee and evening performances.
November 30, 7 p.m.
Lily Pad, Cambridge, MA.
This quartet crosses genres with authoritative ease. Their debut CD, Global Shuffle, was one of 2014’s best, mixing Moroccan, Bulgarian, Argentine, and Italian folk-dance music with virtuoso skill. It’s the kind of virtuosity that raises appreciative eyebrows from the jazz police.
The Music of Bob Nieske and Jimmy Giuffre
December 4, 8 p.m.
Jordan Hall, Boston, MA.
Bassist and composer Nieske leads the NEC Jazz Orchestra in works by himself and his former colleague and bandmate, the late reedman and composer Jimmy Giuffre (1921-2008). Giuffre’s work extended from “Four Brothers,” his signature composition for the Woody Herman Orchestra, through several iterations of the Jimmy Giuffre 3, including a famous early version with Jim Hall and Bob Brookmeyer and a slightly later, legendary version with Steve Swallow and Paul Bley. So that’s big band, chamber jazz, and a kabuki-esque version of free jazz, all under one hat. Nieske will cover much of it, including his own arrangement of Giuffre, and his own compositions, with the NEC Jazz Orchestra.
Frank Vignola & Vinny Raniolo
December 5, 8 p.m.
Johnny D’s, Somerville, MA.
Frank Vignola and his younger counterpart, Vinny Raniolo, have just about perfected the trad-jazz duo guitar thing. They’ll subdue the dinner crowd at Johnny D’s.
MM&W have always given more value for your jam-band dollar than other outfits lumped into that category, and guitarist John Scofield is their perfect foil. Coming off Juice, the quartet’s fourth album in 17 years of collaborating, the group should set your body moving and your brain cells firing.
The peerless Mexican-American jazz singer, songwriter, and Berklee prof Mili Bermejo fronts her quartet — pianist Jiri Nedoma, bassist Dan Greenspan, and drummer Bertram Lehman. Expect a soulful take on the pan-American experience, from Brazil and Argentina to Mexico and Cambridgeport.
— Jon Garelick
Distant Neighbors by Patrick Gabridge. Directed by Liz Fenstermaker. Staged by Fresh Ink at the Boston Playwrights’ Theater, Boston, MA, December 4 through 13.
An unusual choice for the holidays — a (heart-warming?) show about how a visit from extraterrestrials brings us together. “A group of suburban neighbors are strangers to each other until an alien space ship crashes into their back yards. After its arrival, they get to know each other a lot better, and faster, than they ever expected (or wanted).”
Necessary Monsters by John Kuntz. Directed by David R. Gammons. Staged by Speakeasy Stage Company in the Roberts Studio Theatre at the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street, Boston, MA, December 5 through January 3, 2015.
“Sex, mystery, and terrible danger lurk just around the corner” in this world premiere production of a script by award-winning local playwright John Kuntz. There is not much about the plot in the press release, just that the audience will be taken “into the labyrinth of the human psyche for a darkly hilarious and dream-like look at the ways we do violence and the stories we create to keep us up at night.” The “all-star Boston ensemble includes Thomas Derrah, McCaela Donovan, Stacy Fischer, Evelyn Howe, Georgia Lyman, Greg Maraio, and Michael Underhill.”
The Light Princess by Lila Rose Kaplan. Directed by Allegra Libonati. Music by Mike Pettry. Choreography by Jeff and Rick Kuperman. Presented by the A.R.T. /MXAT Institute for Advanced Theater Training at the Loeb Drama Center, Cambridge, MA, December 7 through January 4, 2015.
A holiday show that would seem to push all the right inspirational buttons: “Based on George MacDonald’s fairy tale, this delightful musical tells the story of a young princess cursed to live without gravity. She floats through life unburdened by cares or sorrow, constantly soaring through high winds and avoiding low trees. If her parents, the King and Queen, don’t help her come back to earth by her 16th birthday, the curse will be permanent.”
O.P.C. by Eve Ensler. Directed by Pesha Rudnick. Staged by the American Repertory Theater at the Loeb Drama Center, Cambridge, MA, through January 4, 2015.
The world premiere of a political satire from the author of The Vagina Monologues. The script is billed as “a wildly funny exploration of consumption and politics that asks, “How are we to survive as a species if we insist on destroying the world we love?”‘ The cast includes Kate Mulligan and Olivia Thirlby.
13 Things About Ed Carpolotti, a one-woman musical with book, music, and lyrics by Barry Kleinbort, based on a play by Jeffrey Hatcher. Directed by Kleinbort. Staged by the Merrimack Repertory Theatre at the Nancy L. Donahue Theatre, 50 East Merrimack Street, Lowell, MA, through December 21.
Based on one of the segments in Hatcher’s Three Viewings, this musical was written for actress Penny Fuller, who stars in the MRT production,. The evening focuses on “Virginia Carpolotti, a devoted widow with loving memories of her recently-deceased husband. Though her love endures, her confidence in him flounders as one shady character after another comes calling for the debt that Ed put in her name, and things really heat up when a mysterious $1 million ransom note appears.”
The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife by Charles Busch. Directed by Larry Coen. Staged by the Lyric Stage Company of Boston, 140 Clarendon Street, Copley Square, Boston, MA, through December 20.
A revival of Busch’s mainstream hit about “a middle-aged Upper-West-Side doctor’s wife who is devoted to mornings at the Whitney, afternoons at MOMA, and evenings at BAM. Plunged into a mid-life crisis of Medea-like proportions, she’s shaken out of her lethargy by the reappearance of a fascinating and somewhat mysterious childhood friend.” The production marks the 30th anniversary of the Off-Broadway debut of Busch (Vampire Lesbians of Sodom in 1985) as well as the 15th anniversary of his Broadway debut (The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife in 2000). The Lyric cast includes Marina Re, Ellen Colton, and Joel Colodner.
The Little Prince, adapted from the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Book and lyrics by John Scoullar. Music by Rick Cummins. Directed by Ilyse Robbins. Musical Direction by Todd C. Gordon. Staged by New Rep Theatre at the Charles Mosesian Theater, Arsenal Center for the Arts, Watertown, MA, through December 21.
A musical adaptation of the classic tale that, according to the Chicago Sun Times, not only clearly captures “the tale of a man whose creativity was crushed in childhood only to re-emerge at a moment of great stress, but it deftly illuminates Saint-Exupery’s themes of the meaning of love, the opposing pulls of solitude and companionship, and man’s relationship to the universe itself.” Arts Fuse review
The Trip to Bountiful by Horton Foote. Directed by Michael Wilson. Presented by ArtsEmerson and Jonathan Reinis Productions in association with Center Theatre Group. At the Emerson/Cutler Majestic Theatre, through December 7.
“Cicely Tyson reprises her Tony Award-winning performance as the feisty and funny Carrie Watts in Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Horton Foote’s beloved American classic, a story of intergenerational family dynamics.” The first-rate cast includes Blair Underwood and Vanessa Williams. Arts Fuse review
War by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. Directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz. At the Yale Repertory Theatre, New Haven, CT, through December 13.
The world premiere production of a script commissioned by the Yale Repertory Theatre. The drama “is a wildly provocative, bracingly funny, and all-too-human portrait of a family navigating the landmines of the past as they try to broker peace with each other—and themselves—in the present.” Jacobs-Jenkins’s dramas An Octoroon and Appropriate were honored together with the 2014 OBIE Award for Best New American Play.
Identity Crisis by Peter Snoad. Directed by Jackie Davis. Staged at Hibernian Hall, 184 Dudley Street, Dudley Square, Boston, MA, through December 7.
Hibernian Hall’s visiting playwright has penned what sounds like a very provocative comedy. The play “is a social satire about family and friendship, love and marriage, and racial categories versus personal integrity. The award-winning script revolves around a phenomenon no one wants to talk about: White people are turning Black.”
Phèdre by Jean Racine. Translation by Ted Hughes. Directed by M. Bevin O’Gara
First Church In Boston, Back Bay Boston, MA, through December 7
“A pedigree filled with philandering gods and bloodthirsty warriors does not make for domestic tranquility, as evidenced in this smoldering tale of erotic obsession and betrayal. Phèdre Paula Plum), daughter of King Minos, and second wife to Theseus (Robert Walsh), falls hard for her stepson, Hippolytus, after her husband’s six-month absence appears to becoming more of a permanent vacation.” Hughes’s translation has garnered plenty of critical praise. The Guardian on a National Theatre production: “Hughes’s version, first heard in Jonathan Kent’s 1998 West End production, replaces Racine’s alexandrines with a language that is characteristically sinewy, abrasive, and even animalistic. Phèdre, guilt-ridden over her passion for her stepson Hippolytus, cries: ‘Venus has fastened on me like a tiger.’ Later, she declares: ‘I stink of incest and deceit.'”
Awake and Sing! by Clifford Odets. Directed by Melia Bensussen.
Staged by the Huntington Theatre Company at the Boston University Theatre, Boston, MA, through December 7.
Odets, where is thy sting? Does this ’30s warhorse still feel, according to a blurb on the HTC web site, as if it could have been written yesterday? Arts Fuse review
— Bill Marx
Michael Dahlberg in Recital
Presented by Juventas New Music Ensemble
December 6, 7 p.m.
Cellist Dahlberg performs a program of pieces by local composers, past and present. Music by John Harbison and Arthur Berger is paired with recent works by Kati Agòcs, Ian Gottlieb, Stephanie Ann Boyd, and Robert Honstein. Dahlberg’s joined by soprano Allesandra Cionco and pianist Patricia Au.
The Fantastic Mr. Fox
Presented by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project and Odyssey Opera
December 7, 3 p.m.
Jordan Hall, Boston
Consider it the capstone to a tremendously fruitful year for Boston’s newest opera company: Tobias Picker’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s novel receives a concert performance, courtesy of Odyssey Opera and BMOP. Jon Brancy sings the title role and the cast includes Krista River and Elizabeth Futral, among many others. The Boston Children’s Chorus is also featured.
Die Walküre: Act 3
Presented by New England Conservatory
December 10, 7 p.m.
Jordan Hall, Boston
Jane Eaglen headlines NEC’s gala performance of the final act of Die Walküre. Proceeds from the performance go towards the construction of NEC’s new Student Life and Performance Center, to be opened in 2017. Robert Spano conducts the NEC -Philharmonia.
— Jonathan Blumhofer
First Monday at Jordan Hall
December 1 at 8 p.m.
Presented by New England Conservatory, Jordan Hall, Boston, MA
The program includes the Debussy Sonate for Flute, Viola and Harp (with Paula Robison, Dmitri Murath, and Jessica Zhou), Josquin De Prez’s Madrigals, and Shostakovich’s Trio in a-minor (with Yura Lee, Laurence Lesser, and Russell Sherman).
Handel’s Acis and Galatea
December 4 through 6
Agassiz Theater, 10 Garden St, Cambridge, MA
The Harvard Early Music Society tackles Handel’s opera with director Chiemeka Ezie and music directors Jess Rucinski and Max Philips at the helm. “Mozart himself called this his favorite! The shepherd Acis and a water nymph named Galatea are deeply enamored of each other. However, their joy is threatened by the arrival of the fearsome cyclops Polyphemus, who desires Galatea for himself. The work features a luscious score by Handel and a lyrical libretto by John Gay.”
Boston Artists Ensemble
December 5 at 8 p.m.
Location: Hamilton Hall, 9 Chestnut St, Salem, MA.
(Note: Hamilton Hall is not handicap accessible.)
The program will be repeated on Sunday, December 7 at 2:30 p.m. at Trinity Church, Newton, MA
Performers Bayla Keyes and Tatiana Dimitriades (violins), Kazuko Matsusaka (viola), and Jonathan Miller (cello) take on a program that includes Beethoven’s String Trio in C minor, Opus 9, No. 3, Debussy’s String Quartet in G minor, Opus 10, and a ‘Mystery Piece’ — guess correctly and win a pair of tickets!
Mistral — Viva Vivaldi!
Saturday, December 6 at 5 p.m.
St Paul’s Episcopal Church, 15 St Paul Street, Brookline, MA
Program repeated on Sunday, December 7 at 3 p.m.
At the South Church, Andover, MA.
An all-Vivaldi program that includes the composer’s Double Trumpet Concerto, Lute Concerto in C major,
The Four Seasons, and the Piccolo Concerto in C. The musicians include Julie Scolnik (flute); Sasha Scolnik-Brower (cello); Irina Muresanu (violin); Gabriella Diaz (violin); Alexi Kenney (violin); Stella Chen (violin); Elliot Fisk (guitar); Stephanie Fong (viola); Don Palmer (bass); Kate Driscoll & Elmer Churampi (Trumpets).
Longwood Symphony Orchestra
Saturday, December 6 at 8 p.m.
At Jordan Hall, Boston MA
The Longwood Symphony Orchestra, led by conductor Ronald Feldman, presents a program that includes Mozart’s Serenade No. 6 in D-Major, “Serenata notturna”; Mozarth’s Concerto for Flute and Harp in C-Major (featuring
Paula Robison and Jessica Zhou), and Hanson’s Symphony No. 2, op. 30 (Romantic).
— Susan Miron
Roots and World Music
Vulnerable: A Marvin Gaye Tribute
Berklee Performance Center, Boston, MA
Record label politics kept Motown icon Marvin Gaye’s lush album of jazz ballads from being properly released in his lifetime. The sessions eventually trickled out after Gaye’s murder before being packaged as the Vulnerable LP in the late ’90s. A host of Berklee students and guest singers will perform those tracks and more familiar Gaye classics with full orchestration. Among the vocalists — Aloe Blacc, the thoughtful neo-soul star whose Avici collaboration “Wake Me Up” has garnered over a half-billion views on YouTube.
Most country stars treat their backing bands as payroll expenditures rather than artistic collaborators. Not Marty Stuart. The guardian of country history and fashion has been playing and recording with drummer Kenny Stinson, bassist Paul Martin, and monster guitarist Kenny Vaughan for the better part of a decade. The result is that the group has become one of the all-time great country units. Their chemistry is all over Stuart’s ambitious new double-disc LP Saturday Night & Sunday Morning, which explores both the honky-tonk and gospel sides of country.
The Big Gospel Program
December 6, 4 p.m.
Jeremiah E. Burke High School, 70 Washington St., Dorchester, MA
True to its billing, this is the traditional gospel program of the year for Boston. Tupelo, Miss. quartet superstar Lee Williams and the Spiritual QCs top the 10-group bill that also includes such favorites as Doc McKenzie and the Gospel Hi-Lites, George Dean and the Gospel Four, and octogenarian and former Sam Cooke bandmate Spencer Taylor and the Highway QCs. Look for an interview with Taylor later this week in the Arts Fuse.
Caribbean Christmas Show and Dance
Reggie Lewis Center, Roxbury, MA
Barbados spouge music legend Shirley Stewart put on a thrilling performance earlier this year at the Reggie Lewis Center. (You can read his ArtsFuse profile here.) He’ll be returning for radio host David Martin’s annual holiday show, which also features soca entertainer Glenda Ifill, food, and plenty of dancing.
— Noah Schaffer
Ross Livermore Band
Great Scott, Boston, MA
Local soul-rockers Ross Livermore Band are in the midst of an interesting project. Rather than do the usual album-tour-album-tour-tour-tour cycle, the past months have seen the group release video EPs of their new music, including “Always Was You” and, on December 2, “Young and Beautiful.” To celebrate the completion of the project, which will culminate with the December 30 release of the video for the song “To Life,” the band hits Great Scott with the Frotations and the Doyle Brothers in support.
Keep Safe Boston (Benefit for Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts)
Brighton Music Hall, Boston, MA
Keep Safe Boston was founded by one of the city’s greatest music ambassadors — the radio host and event producer Anngelle Wood — to honor the women killed in the December 1994 shootings at the Planned Parenthood in Brookline, MA. November brought the release of the organization’s 50-song digital compilation and December sees this concert at Brighton Music Hall featuring Jass Bianchi, Parlour Bells, the Color and Sound, and more. Proceeds from the show and the compilation will go to the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts.
Upcoming and On Sale…
Future Islands (1/7/2015, Royale); The Vaselines (1/17/2015, Brighton Music Hall); Gang of Four (3/6/2015, Paradise Rock Club); Swervedriver (3/28/2015, The Sinclair); Belle and Sebastian (3/30/2015, House of Blues); The Who (5/24/2015, Mohegan Sun Arena); The Who (10/29/2015, TD Garden).
— Adam Ellsworth
New Slow City
Brookline Booksmith, Coolidge Corner MA
December 1 at 7 p.m.
“Burned-out after years of doing development and conservation work around the world, William Powers spent a season in a 12-foot-by-12-foot cabin off the grid in North Carolina. Could he live a similarly minimalist way in the belly of the beast — New York City?” Sounds like TV’s Green Acres in reverse.
Not Fade Away
Brookline Booksmith, Coolidge Corner MA
December 2 at 7 p.m.
Alexander was born with a rare genetic mutation called Usher Syndrome type III, which has caused her to gradually lose both her sight and hearing since childhood. Doctors told her she would be blind and deaf by 30. Then, to make matters worse, a fall at the age of 18 contributed to her physical problems. Now 35, Alexander talks about how she became a psychotherapist with two master’s degrees from Columbia University and an athlete who regularly participates in extreme endurance races.
A Map of Betrayal
Brookline Booksmith, Coolidge Corner MA
December 3 at 7 p.m.
The eminent Boston University professor’s latest novel revolves around the fallout that follows when American-raised Lillian Shang discovers the diary of her father, who was the most important Chinese spy to ever join the C.I.A. Not only does this diary contain a tremendous tale of intrigue and duplicity, but also reveals that the man had a second family. Jin’s novel questions the standard notions of identity, family, and home.
The Secret History of Wonder Woman
December 3 at 6 p.m. (Doors open at 5:30)
Brattle Theatre, Cambridge, MA
The Harvard University professor and New Yorker staff writer discusses her new biography of the comic book heroine, which also reflects the secret history of feminism in the 20th Century. Lepore dug deep into the archives of William Marston, a former Harvard professor who had deep connections to some of the female pioneers in American history. She will also screen the 1974 pilot for a Wonder Woman TV series after the discussion.
Seeking The Cave
Brookline Booksmith, Coolidge Corner MA
December 4 at 7 p.m.
The award-winning poet and essayist undertook an epic journey to find Cold Mountain Cave, the mythological birthplace of his hero, Chinese poet Han Shan. The trip, which starts in the Midwest and jumps to Tokyo and then moves into the rural regions of mainland China, becomes an adventure in cultural, aesthetic, and psychological discovery.
All Eyes Are Upon Us: Race and Politics from Boston to Brooklyn
Harvard Book Store, Cambridge MA
December 5 at 3 p.m.
Sokol, a historian who focuses on regional issues, will discuss and sign copies of his new book. All Eyes traces the history of the Northeast’s reaction to civil rights through the years. Many whites cheered for Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier even though blacks were still socially segregated. Sokol’s work illuminates the complex interplay between the dreams of East Coast liberal idealism and its less lofty realities.
The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution
First Parish Church, Cambridge MA
December 5 at 7 p.m. (doors open at 6:30)
Coming off the massive success of his biography of Steve Jobs, the acclaimed biographer tells the story of the creators of the digital revolution. Beginning with Lord Byron’s daughter Ada Lovelace’s pioneering efforts at computer programming, the author explores the fascinating personalities who launched the digital revolution. His story takes in the lives and times of innovators from Alan Turning and Robert Noyce to the eminent Steves Jobs and Wozniak.
Harvard Book Store Winter Warehouse Sale
December 6 to December 7 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Harvard Book Store Warehouse, 14 Park Street, Somerville MA
It’s the most wonderful time of the year for book collectors, bargain shoppers, and the curious bibliophile. The Harvard Book Store opens its winter warehouse, chock full of used, remaindered, and collectible titles to choose from. Tweet your favorite finds using the hashtag #HBSWarehouseSale and you could win a $25 gift card!
Egg & Spoon
Porter Square Books, Cambridge MA
December 7 at 5 p.m.
The bestselling author of the omnipresent Wicked series will read and discuss his latest charmingly inventive tale. The Boston native’s narrative takes place in the Russian countryside, where two wandering princes and a pair of sisters meet the czar as well as Maguire’s version of the Russian witch Baba Yaga, whose portable house is supported by chicken legs.
Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey
Peter Paul and Mary: Fifty Years in Music and Life
Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA
December 11 at 7 p.m.
Two thirds of the beloved folk trio will read and discuss their new memoir, which details fifty years of songwriting, from their famous ’60s singles through their activist years with MLK and their anti-nuke concert in 1978 at the Hollywood Bowl. They will also be hosting a breakfast at 8:30 the next morning at Henrietta’s Table (Tickets are $25 and include meal and tip, available through the Charles Hotel’s website.)
— Matt Hanson