Arts Fuse critics select the best in film, dance, visual art, theater, music, and author events for the coming weeks.
By The Arts Fuse Staff
Festival of Films from Japan
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
This year’s lineup gives you another chance to see Hirokazu Kore-eda’s brilliant film The Third Murder and his 2018 Cannes Festival winner Shoplifters. Also included in an excellent lineup are Masaaki Yuasa’s animated adventure The Night Is Short, Mari Okada’s anime Maquia, When the Promised Flower Blooms, about an immortal girl who has the power to weave her thoughts and emotions into fabric. Documentary subjects include prolific film composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, the top-selling female artist in the world, Yayoi Kusama, and the great filmmaker and animator, Hayao Miyazaki.
The Outer Limits of The Real
February 4 – February 10
Harvard Film Archives, Cambridge, MA
The program includes three films by pioneering filmmakers and experimenters Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor, both of whom were associated with Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab. Each film finds novel ways to dive into difficult and unwieldy subjects: Leviathan, a form-shattering study of the oceanic sublime and the modern fishing industry shot largely on, and in, the churning waters around a fishing vessel off the Massachusetts coast; somniloquies and Caniba raised the bar in the cinematic search to portray troubling subjects: the frighteningly performative recorded nightmares of Dion McGregor and the dark obsessions recounted by the notorious and unrepentant Japanese cannibal Issei Sagawa. The filmmakers will appear in person for a moderated discussions. Schedule
Israeli Film Festival
February 7 – 19
Screening at various venues
The films and locations are as follows:
The Other Story
Feb. 7 at 7 p.m. at the Brattle Theatre, Cambridge
Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. at Emerson College, Boston, MA
Feb. 10 at 11:30 a.m. at the West Newton Cinema
Feb. 10 at 4:30 p.m. at West Newton Cinema
You Only Die Twice
Feb. 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the West Newton Cinema
Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. at the JCC Greater Boston Riemer-Goldstein Theater
Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. at the West Newton Cinema
An Israeli Love Story
Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. at West Newton Cinema
2019 Oscar Nominated Shorts: Documentary
Opens on February 8
Coolidge Corner Theater, Brookline, MA
For the 14th consecutive year, Shorts HD and Magnolia Pictures present the candidates in the Oscar-Nominated Short Films category.
Letter from Masanjia
February 8 at 7 p.m.
BU Cinemathèque at 640 Commonwealth Ave., Room 101
Free and open to the public
Arts Fuse critic Gerald Peary’s screening and discussion program presents An Evening with Leon Lee, a Chinese émigré living in Vancouver who specializes in films about Chinese human rights. He will show his hard-hitting documentary, Letter from Masanjia, in which an Oregon woman finds an SOS message from a Chinese dissident in a package of Halloween decorations from Kmart. The letter-writer’s dangerous quest to expose deadly persecution set off a chain of events that would cast light on the inhumanity of China’s labor camp system.
The Grand Bizarre (The Pleasure of the Textile)
February 11 at 7 p.m.
Brattle Theatre, Cambridge, MA
The Grand Bizarre is a dazzling debut feature by director Jodie Mack, a kinetic examination of the global circulation of textiles and patterns, an expansion of the artist’s long-admired and technically precise examination, via shorts, of the work involved in the manipulation of fabrics, paper, and light. Here she expands her scope and scale, taking the viewer on a worldwide journey, supplying commentary on the motifs and methods the recur across diverse landscapes and cultures. A buoyant and trippy experience. The Docyard screening will be presented on 35mm followed by an in-person discussion with the director.
— Tim Jackson
Island of Lost Souls
January 30 at 5:30 and 9 p.m.
Brattle Theatre, Cambridge, MA
I have taught H. G. Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau for years and this 1932 version of the book is my favorite by far. Yes, the special effects are hopelessly dated, Erle C. Kenton’s direction is clunky, and Bela Lugosi (the “Sayer of the Law”) looks like a walking shaving brush. But Charles Laughton is one of the finest mad scientists in cinema history. (He is a far better crazed vivisector than either Marlon Brando or Burt Lancaster, who starred in later adaptations). Effete, white-suited, perverted, and sado-masochistic (why is there no anesthetic on this island?), Laughton revels in Wells’s Darwinian take-down of colonialism. Moreau wields the whip while he quells rebellion via a satiric hash of Judeo-Christian rule-making. The movie goes the book one better (in terms of tastelessness), to the point that Wells was horrified when he heard about it. Not only does Laughton carve and glue animals into people but, as the resident God of Science, he tries to create a new race by mating a normal man with a ‘humanized’ female panther. And the final surgical reckoning in the House of Pain — the lab rats revenge!
— Bill Marx
January 31 at 8 p.m.
Lilypad, Cambridge, MA.
Singer Kris Adams’s fourth album (and first since Longing, in 2014, a stellar collaboration with trumpeter arranger/Greg Hopkins) is probably her most personal — a tribute to the late composer and Berklee professor Steve Prosser, to whom Adams (another Berklee teacher) was married for a couple of decades, and with whom she remained friends until his death, in 2012. On the new We Should Have Danced, Adams has collected music that Prosser wrote and set it with lyrics, some inspired by Prosser’s poetry. The results are lyrical, swinging, harmonically rich, and beautifully sung and played by Adams, pianist Tim Ray (who arranged), bassist Paul Del Nero, and flutist Fernando Brandão. That group will join Adams at the Lilypad.
Charlie Kohlhase’s Explorers Club
February 1 at 8 p.m.
Third Life Studio, Somerville, MA.
Esteemed reedman, composer, and bandleader Charlie Kohlhase steps out from his usual haunt at Outpost 186 for this Mandorla Music series event at Third Life Studio. His Explorers Club is tenor saxophonist Seth Meicht, trumpeter and flugelhornist Daniel Rosenthal, trombonist Jeb Bishop, tubist Josiah Reibstein, guitarist Eric Hofbauer, bassist Aaron Darrell, drummer Curt Newton, and Kohlhase on alto saxophone and baritone. The program will include pieces by Kohlhase, Darrell, Hofbauer, Duke Ellington, Elmo Hope, Makanda Ken McIntyre, Roswell Rudd and John Tchicai.
February 7 at 7:30 p.m.
Regattabar, Cambridge, MA.
For a some of us, our belated introduction to Aaron Diehl was as leader of the backup trio for singer Cécile McLorin Salvant, with bassist Paul Sikivie and drummer Lawrence Leathers. Which inspired us to search out his own discs, confirming his broad reach and depth and capacity for explosive surprises. This solo piano show should give Diehl a chance to stretch out and for listeners to hear what other tools he has in his kit.
Matt Wilson’s Honey and Salt
February 7 at 8 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston, MA.
Drummer and composer Matt Wilson’s CV includes stints all manner of jazz eminences, including Joe Lovano and, way back when, as Dewey Redman’s right-hand man, and, even further back, as the rhythmic linchpin in Boston’s Either/Orchestra. His Honey and Salt: Music Inspired by the Poetry of Carl Sandburg was widely considered one of the best of 2017 (including by me). He’s calling this show Honey and Salt (at odds with the Scullers website’s “Salt and Honey”), so expect a mix of instrumentals and spoken and sung poetry, set to a range of bluesy acoustic funk and unadorned jazz abstraction. Unconfirmed line-up, based on the album and other live dates: guitarist and singer Dawn Thomson, cornettist Ron Miles, reed player Jeff Lederer, bassist Martin Wind.
February 9 at 7:30 p.m.
Regattabar, Cambridge, MA.
The talented 27-year-old pianist and composer Steven Feifke has an expansive and lived-in conception of the post-bop tradition, rich in varied, detailed textures without ever losing a grasp of momentum and song-form shapeliness (his book includes original arrangements of Monk’s “Evidence” and Horace Silver’s “Nica’s Dream”). This marks Feifke’s 10th anniversary of playing shows at the Regattabar. He’s joined by alto saxophonist Alexa Tarantino, trumpeter Benny Benack III, bassist Mark Lewandowski, drummer Bryan Carter, and special guest vocalist Martina DaSilva.
— Jon Garelick
Kevin Harris Project, including Jason Palmer (tp), Jonathan Suazo (as), Nikolai Mishchenko (p) “Contemporary Octet Expedition through the Expressions of James Baldwin” on February 5 at the Berklee Performance Center, Boston, MA at 8 p.m. A multimedia evening of serious music (augmented by recorded voices and electronics) enrobing texts from James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time. See Arts Fuse preview
Stanley Jordan (g) – on February 1 at the Regattabar, 7:30 p.m. – This gig seems to be a solo show, although it’s not explicitly identified as such. Jordan is the premier exponent of guitar tapping, a still-unconventional technique using the fretboard as the primary sounding device and freeing the player to produce notes with both hands. He is mesmerizing visually, and has an enormous repertoire of standards and other familiar material. His usual mode is reserved and introspective, so keep your conversation to a minimum and pay attention.
Aaron Diehl (p) – on February 7 at the Regattabar at 7:30 p.m. A solo show by a pianist with chops to burn. Diehl was classically trained, and he can pull off feats that rival those of Oscar Peterson or Chucho Valdes. But his greatest attribute is taste. His fingerbusting stuff, difficult as it is, never sounds show-offy; in fact, one of his major influences seems to be that of John Lewis, who was admired for his ability to pare his notes down to a precious few. (Diehl’s 2013 CD, The Bespoke Man’s Narrative, offers direct homage to Lewis and the Modern Jazz Quartet, and is well worth hearing as an introduction to his work.) He knows many other aspects of piano history as well, and this performance might nod to James P. Johnson, Duke Ellington, or Art Tatum just as easily as it might to Lewis, Thelonious Monk, Errol Garner, or Herbie Hancock.
Keyon Harrold (tp), with other players to be announced – on February 8 at Scullers, 8 p.m. Harrold came to wide attention by ghosting Miles Davis’s trumpet parts for Don Cheadle on the 2015 film Miles Ahead. His second CD, The Mugician, came out last year, and this gig will probably draw from the repertoire there. What the band at Scullers will sound like is hard to guess, because the CD ranges far and wide musically, from straight-ahead ballad playing to a regaae-ish original, to collaborations with Georgia Anne Muldrow, Robert Glasper, and neo-bluesman Gary Clark Jr. Throughout, though, and in his debut CD, Harrold shows off a distinctive voice on the instrument and a refreshing penchant for Miles-ish polytonality. This just might be one of those gigs about which you can say, “I saw him when.”
— Steve Elman
February 5 at 6 p.m.
Mills Gallery, Boston Center for the Arts
The Boston Center for the Arts presents its first “live mixtape” highlighting work by local singers, songwriters, dancers, storytellers, and performing artists. The event kicks off Black History Month, and features Black Bear Extraordinaire, Kadahj Bennett, Ashley Rose, Billy Dean Thomas, Modern Connections Dance Theater, Jean Appolon Expressions, and Zainab Sumu’s Primitive Modern pop-up shop.
National Choreography Month Performance
February 8 & 9 at 8 p.m.
The Dance Complex
After a fruitful January filled with choreographic creativity, 26 local dance makers present new works created over 31 days. Dance genres include modern, post-modern, contemporary, ballet, Indian, Irish, and dance-theatre; there will be solos and duets along with larger group performances.
Boch Center/ Shubert Theatre
Celebrity Series of Boston presents its co-commission of Mark Morris Dance Group’s Pepperland — a colorful, evening-length tribute to the 50th Anniversary of the Beatles’ groundbreaking album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, accompanied live by voice, soprano saxophone, two keyboards, theremin, and percussion. Viewers are encouraged to attend the February 9 performance, when composer Ethan Iverson and choreographer Mark Morris will give a post-show talk about their artistic process.
Point of Departure
Ipswich Moving Company Studio Theatre
Moving from dance to visual art and back to dance, this cross-disciplinary performance features seven new choreographic works under the collective title Point of Departure. After visual artist Peggy Badenhausen created a series of monotypes influenced by Labanotation (dance notation), Ipswich Moving Company interpreted these notations and turned them into dances. Informal talk backs with the audience will take place following each performance.
William Forsythe: Choreographic Objects
Through February 24, 2019
Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston , Boston, MA
Whether you’re a longtime fan of William Forsythe’s world-reknowned choreographic works or hearing his name for the first time, the ICA encourages you to step inside his choreographic world through this unique installation (the first of its kind in the U.S.). Spanning over two decades, this major exhibition includes room-size interactive sculptures, participatory objects, and video installations inviting viewers to confront and engage with the fundamental principles of choreography, which Forsythe calls “Choreographic Objects.” This exhibition was organized by Eva Respini, Barbara Lee Chief Curator, with Jeffrey De Blois, Assistant Curator. Arts Fuse review
— Merli V. Guerra
Harry Dodge: Works of Love
Aidekman Arts Center/Tisch Family Gallery
Through April 14
Since the early ’90s, interdisciplinary artist Harry Dodge has been pioneering practices involving the intersection of video, sculpture, performance, writing and collaboration. In this exhibit, which revolves around the idea of love, he toys with the perplexing characteristics of the human and the nonhuman. The often humorous presentation of minimalist formalism — overrun with a minimalist-negating slew of visual information — ponders concepts of human-like connection produced by nonhuman reasoning: i.e., a robot capable of love.
Ansel Adams In Our Time
MFA Boston, 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston MA
Through February 24
Renowned as the premier photographer of the U.S. national parks, Ansel Adams is a legend in American photographic history. His legacy is revisited in this exhibit, which juxtaposes his majestic landscapes with works by those who influenced him, as well as those who were influenced by him. This lens highlights and contrasts social and environmental observations of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.
The Peabody Essex Museum, Salem
Through Aug. 4
As technology continues draw on space-age designs that seem to increasingly reflect 1950s imaginings of the future, this exhibition focuses on technological innovation rooted in designs as old as time. Bio-inspired artwork suggest how nature-based solutions might solve human problems. Featured designs range from the simple hook-and-eye fastener to a cutting-edge personal robot, while others address concerns such as water collection and air purification.
Shadows and Traces: The Photography of John Reuter
Griffin Museum, 67 Shore Road, Winchester MA
Through March 3
John Reuter’s distorted, flattened photomontages generate a dissociative experience, raising doubts about photography as a medium of “truth.” Combining the grainy aesthetic of the photo-transfer with watercolor, digital editing, and various media retouching. Reuter transforms original images into his own hybrid creations, transporting the viewer into a surreal world of severed, composite images and altered perspectives.
Konstantin Simun: The Sacred in the Profane
Museum of Russian Icons
203 Union Street
February 21 through June 30
Seeing the sacred in the most mundane of materials, Konstantin Simun draws parallels between discarded consumer objects and religious icons. He was deeply affected by American consumer culture after he arrived (in 1988) in the U.S.; the Russian-born artist was fascinated with the colorful plethora of plastic strewn in city streets. Since then, Simun has worked primarily with this medium. Removing plastic containers and objects from the environments of their intended uses, he alters and presents them as elevated icons, asking us to consider the formal qualities of their molded forms, and questioning our criteria for determining the sacred from the profane.
Howardena Pindell: What Remains to Be Seen
Rose Art Museum
415 South Street, Waltham, MA
through May 19
Featuring work that spans the artist’s 50+ year career, this exhibition looks at the many styles, materials, and investigations of Howardena Pindell. Constantly challenging the tradition of painting in which she was trained, Pindell broke new ground in the art world both as a painter and a woman of color. Much of her work involves a simultaneous deconstruction and reconstruction of both materials and ideas, as she contemplates issues such as racism, feminism, equality, and exploitation. Also featuring work in film, photography, and performance, this exhibit is the most comprehensive retrospective of Pindell’s career so far.
Recent Acquisitions: Photography and Abstraction
David Winton Bell Gallery, List Art Building
Brown University, 64 College Street, Providence, RI
through May 26
Featuring such giants as Aaron Siskind, Marilyn Bridges, and Hiroshi Sugimoto, this collection showcases the beginnings of abstraction as a photographic style, alongside its contemporary expansions. Whether paring down a physical subject in pursuit of pure form, or manipulating materials in-camera, these photographers investigate methods of expression beyond representation. Part of a series of upcoming exhibits featuring Bell Gallery photo acquisitions, this collection promises to be an intriguing look at photo abstraction throughout Western history.
–- Rebekah Bonner
Roots and World Music
Hugo Alves: Unha e Carne
January 30, 7 p.m.
At Oliver Colvin Recital Hall, Berklee College of Music
Thoughtful, subtle guitarist Alves presents a night of solo Brazilian compositions by the likes of Guinga and Dominguinhos.
The Pentocostal House of God churches have featured the steel guitar in their gospel services since the 1930’s. In recent years Robert Randolph has crossed over to the jam band circuit, but the Campbell Brothers have been the highest profile ambassadors of the more traditional side of “sacred steel.” Their well-deserved secular acclaim has come at a great personal cost, as jealous church leaders essentially ex-communicated the brothers for taking their ministry to the masses. But the Campbells have never let that toll interfere with the unparalleled spirit of their live performances, which happen in Boston all too infrequently.
Jesse Legé & Bayou Brew
February 7, 7 p.m.
The Burren, Somerville, MA
Accordionist Legé keeps the Cajun flame burning with his traditional dancehall and Cajun country music.
— Noah Schaffer
Admit right out — not a fan of Celtic music. For decades, too many releases sounded so careful, so recycled, so eager to please, dammit, that they were enough to motivate me to pull out old Chieftans LPs. So this is one of those inside-out recommendations: if I’m plugging a Celtic outfit, you know it’s extraordinary. We Banjo 3 (see, even name’s unusual) consists of David Howley (lead vocals, guitar), Fergal Scahill (fiddle, percussion, vocals), Martin Howley (mandolin, banjo, vocals) and Enda Scahill (banjo, vocals), plus a passel of horns, bass and piano for studio sessions. Their songs can be flat out strange and scary in mood, though We Banjo 3 is ultimately an upbeat outfit. “This Is Home” from String Theory (2016, and their peak so far) makes an outstanding example, whether you consider “Home” to be Ireland or a state of mind. As banjo and fiddle twirl in and out of the foreground, David Howley decries “the howl in the night like a warning of death/mind numbing, hair pulling, voices in your head” and notes that, while at home, he feels alone. The tempo slows, the mood turns poignant and Howley declares suffering and alienation had finally passed — “I was alone, but now I feel at home.” Even the reading of “Little Liza Jane” is fresh and frisky. About half the tracks are instrumentals, but as titles like “Chair Snapper’s Delight” suggest, they are consistently peppery and relentless enough to get heads nodding and shadows moving. My only complaint is the name they give their elusive style: “Celtgrass.” Did I mention I’m not much of a bluegrass fan, either?
— Milo Miles
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, an original adaptation written and directed by Alexander Huh. Staged by the Arlekin Players at 368 Hillside Avenue, Needham, MA, through March 3.
“This unique production is presented in Russian and English simultaneously. The ability to love can either be a gift or a curse. What brings us together or prevents us from understanding each other? These are the challenging questions that our main character, a porcelain rabbit, will grapple with on his miraculous journey.” Arts Fuse review
A Doll’s House, Part 2 by Lucas Hnath. Directed by Les Waters. Staged by the Huntington Theatre Company in a co-production with Berkeley Repertory Theatre at the Huntington Avenue Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA, through February 3.
Do we really need a sequel to Ibsen’s once shocking play? Have we been wondering what happened to Nora once she slammed the door on her kids and her marriage? Apparently so, because this is “America’s most produced play of the season,” according to the Huntington Theatre Company press release. The script imagines Nora 15 years later as a successful writer and independent woman. She is urgently seeking to finalize her divorce, but first her estranged family has grievances to air.” Here is an Arts Fuse review of a production of the script at Barrington Stage last July. Arts Fuse review of the HTC production.
Small Mouth Sounds by Bess Wohl. Directed by M. Bevin O’Gara. Staged by SpeakEasy Stage Company in the Roberts Studio Theatre in the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street, Boston, MA, through February 2.
The script “follows six strangers on a spiritual retreat for what they hope will be a life-changing week. In the overwhelming quiet of the woods, they struggle to abandon technology and embrace silence under the tutelage of an unseen guru, who is having her own challenges with inner peace. Though it employs little dialogue, there is definitely nothing quiet about” this play, which “asks how we address life’s biggest questions when words fail us.” Arts Fuse review
The Burn by Philip Dawkins. Directed by Logan Serabian. Presented in conversation with More Weight: A Derivative New Work inspired by Arthur Miller’s The Crucible by Serabian. Staged by the Wilbury Theatre Group at 40 Sonoma Court, Providence RI, through February 3.
Receiving its New England premiere, The Burn “is a thrilling blend of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and the online world that serves as modern telling of the way social media blurs the lines of truth and fiction and paves the way for a new kind of witch hunt in today’s world.” Written and conceived by Serabian, “More Weight is a minimalistic work inspired by Arthur Miller’s original text that at a breakneck pace re-tells the entire original Salem witch trials with just five actors.”
Slow Food by Wendy MacLeod. Directed by Sean Daniels. Staged by the Merrimack Repertory Theater at the Nancy L. Donahue Theatre at Liberty Hall, Lowell MA, through February 3.
The world premiere of a new comedy that takes aim at aging foodies and existential restaurant service: “A couple of empty nesters just want to have a nice meal out on their big anniversary in Palm Springs, but their highly neurotic waiter will have them examining everything from their menu choices to their very future together. In this scenario, there’s no escaping the world’s worst waiter.” Arts Fuse review
Othello by William Shakespeare. Directed by Bill Rauch. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival production presented by the American Repertory Theater at the Loeb Drama Center, Cambridge, MA, through February 9.
This production “explores society’s polarizing struggles with difference. Consumed by their bigotry and xenophobia, those who praised the Moorish general Othello for his military successes now reject his marriage to Desdemona. The newlyweds are determined to overcome this resentment, but Othello’s assignment in Cyprus draws them into the web of his lieutenant Iago, whose jealousy knows no bounds.” Arts Fuse review.
The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe. Directed by A. Nora Long. Staged by the Lyric Stage Company of Boston at 140 Clarendon Street, Copley Square, Boston, MA through February 3.
“Left quad. Right quad. Lunge. A girls’ indoor soccer team warms up. From the safety of their suburban stretch circle, the team navigates big questions and wages tiny battles with all the vigor of a pack of adolescent warriors.” The playwright comments: “I wanted to see a portrait of teenage girls as human beings – as complicated, nuanced, very idiosyncratic people, athletes and daughters and students and scholars and people who are trying actively to figure out who they are in this changing world around them.” A finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Arts Fuse review of the New York production. Arts Fuse review
Heartland by Gabriel Jason Dean. Directed by Bridget Kathleen O’Brady. A National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere staged by the New Repertory Theatre in its Black Box theater at the Mosesian Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal Street, Watertown, MA, through February 9.
“When Afghan refugee Nazrullah shows up on the doorstep of retired professor Dr. Harold Banks claiming to have known his adopted daughter Getee, the two become unlikely roommates and friends. Getee and Nazrullah’s relationship unfolds in a series of dramatized memories that reveal their uniquely human journey while stunning us with a new understanding of America’s tragic impact on Jihadism in the Middle East.” Arts Fuse review
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters, adapted by Hattie Naylor. Directed by Tony Estrella. Staged by the Gamm Theatre, 245 Jefferson Bouleveard, Warwick, RI, Jan 17 through Feb 10.
The American premiere of this script: “In the late 1940s, calm has returned to London and people are recovering from the chaos of war. In a quiet dating agency, a bombed-out church and a prison cell, the stories of three women and a young man unfold backward to the heart of the Blitz, revealing the secret desires and regrets that bind them together.”
Winter Panto 2019: Paul Bunyan and the Winter of the Blue Snow (An American Tall Tale), story conceived by Matthew Woods and written by the imaginary beasts ensemble. Directed by Woods. Staged by imaginary beasts at the Charlestown Working Theater, 442 Bunker Hill Street, Charlestown, MA, through February 10.
“The icy King Zero (a.k.a. Old Man Winter), is determined to diminish Paul Bunyan’s legend and to do-away with the spring by turning our heroes’ adventure-of-a-lifetime into a catastrophe of epic proportions! Will our heroes foil the Demon King and his frosty fiends, or will we all be forced to endure an everlasting winter?”
Bedlam’s Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. Directed by Eric Tucker. The Bedlam production presented by the Underground Railway Theatre at Central Square Theatre, Cambridge, MA, January 31 through March 3.
The always imaginative Bedlam, who delivered a powerhouse Saint Joan a few years ago, comes into town with its adaptation of another GBS milestone. “The production brings Eliza Doolittle, Professor Higgins (performed by Tucker), and a cast of characters to life with just six actors. Immerse yourself in this gritty, fresh interpretation of George Bernard Shaw’s classic, exploring the negotiation of power through sexual politics.”
Girlish by Alexa Derman. Directed by Melanie Garber. Staged by Fresh Ink Theater at the Plaza Black Box Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts, Boston, MA, February 1 through 16.
A world premiere of a play that explores the impact of social media on young women: “Windy loves painting her nails, goofing off with her BFF, and every one of her American Girl dolls — even though loving AG is totally embarrassing when you’re fifteen. But when her obsession brings Instagram celebrity and the digital attention of a cute older guy, things get complicated IRL. Adolescence meets online culture in this story about figuring out what it means to grow up.”
bare stage by Michael Walker. Directed by A. Nora Long. Presented by the Festival Theatre at the Plaza Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street, Boston, MA, February 8 through March 2.
The world premiere of a play that deals with the bare facts. The script “enters on the difficulties and pressures faced by two young actresses when they are faced with the choice to accept roles with nudity in a Broadway-bound play, or not work. How will playing these roles affect their family, friends and lovers? Is the on-stage nudity powerful and critically necessary, or is it added just sensationalism tacked on to increase ticket sales? Censorship, artistic freedom, exploitation and body-shaming are called into question in this world-premiere drama presented without intermission.” Note: There is brief nudity in the show. Anyone under 16 will not be admitted unless attended by an adult 21 or older.
Who is Eartha Mae? A One-Woman Play With Music About the Life & Times of Eartha Kitt created and performed by Jade Wheeler. Directed by Cailin Doran. Music Direction and Piano by Seulah Noh and Choreography by Jenna Pollack. Staged by Bridge Repertory Theatre at the Multicultural Arts Center, 41 Second Street, Cambridge, MA, January 31 through February 23.
The world premiere of a one-woman show on a show biz legend: “Known to many as Catwoman, Eartha Kitt was a firecracker on screen and stage. But who was she when the curtain fell and the dressing room door closed? At turns intimate and show-stopping, this world premiere production takes you on Kitt’s journey from Jim Crow-era South, to Europe, around the world, and back home again. Join us in bringing the story of an influential American icon to life.”
Nat Turner in Jerusalem by Nathan Alan Davis. Directed by Benny Sato Ambush. Staged by Actors’ Shakespeare Project at Hibernian Hall, 184 Dudley St, Boston, MA, January 30 through February 24.
A two-person historical drama that will no doubt take issue with William Styron’s 1967 Pultizer prize-winning novel The Confessions of Nat Turner: “Nat Turner led a slave revolt that shocked the country in August of 1831. The evening before Turner is scheduled to be executed, he and attorney Thomas R. Gray, the recorder of his confessions, confront what has passed and what the future may hold.”
— Bill Marx
“Trip the Light Fantastic”
January 28 at 8 p.m.
At the Concert Hall, 855 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA
Boston University School of Music presents harpist Franziska Huhn. On the program: works by J.S. Bach, Rameau, and Prokofiev. Accompanying musicians include flutist Vanessa Holroyd and violist Daniel Dona.
No Tenors Allowed
February at 8 p.m.
Jordan Hall/New England Conservatory, 30 Gainsborough Street, Boston, MA
Celebrity Series presents baritone Thomas Hampson & bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni. Kevin Murphy is on the piano.
An Improvised Surprise
February 3 at 7:30 p.m.
Brown Hall/New England Conservatory, 30 Gainsborough Street, Boston, MA
A Music for Food concert. On the program: Charles Loeffler 4 Poèmes, Op.5; Johannes Brahms String Sextet No. 2 in G major, Opus 36.
Pianist Meng-Chieh Liu
February 7 at 7:30 p.m.
Jordan Hall/New England Conservatory, 30 Gainsborough Street, Boston, MA
New England Conservatory presents Meng-Chieh Liu, a recipient of the 2002 Avery Fisher Career Grant. He joined New England Conservatory’s piano studio faculty in 2014.
— Susan Miron
The Earth, Under Attack
Presented by Boston Musica Viva
February 2, 8 p.m.
Tsai Performance Center, Boston, MA
BMV continues its 50th-anniversary season with a program designed to “shine light on dangerous troubles facing our world.” Music by Brian Robison and Michael Gandolfi are on the program, as are premieres of new pieces by Sebastian Currier and Ellen Taafe Zwilich, and a multimedia work by Deborah and Richard Cornell.
Batiashvili plays Szymanowski
Presented by Boston Symphony Orchestra
February 7-9 and 12, 8 p.m. (1:30 p.m. on Friday)
Symphony Hall, Boston, MA
BSO music director Andris Nelsons is joined by violinist Lisa Batiashvili for Karol Szymanowski’s incandescent Violin Concerto no. 1. Music by Olly Wilson and Aaron Copland – two composers rarely associated with the conductor – are also on tap.
— Jonathan Blumhofer
Rock, Pop, and Folk
Richard Lloyd casts an immeasurable shadow over post-1977 popular music by virtue of having been a guitarist for Television (click for Brett Milano’s 2014 Arts Fuse concert review), whose albums Marquee Moon (1977) and Adventure (1978) are among the most influential on post-punk, alternative, and indie. Lloyd went on to play on numerous Matthew Sweet (click for my Arts Fuse interview) albums between 1989 and 2008, including the 1991 latter-day power pop touchstone Girlfriend. Last November, Lloyd released The Countdown, his fifth solo album of original material and first of any sort since 2009. (Here is the title track.) On top of all of this, he is the author of the 2017 memoir Everything is Combustible: Television, CBGB’s, and Five Decades of Rock and Roll, which looks like it might be coming out in paperback next month. Lloyd is unlikely to win new fans or become a household name at this point, but he is sure to keep those in the know beguiled at City Winery on Tuesday night.
January 30 (Two sets: 7 and 9:30 p.m.)
Club Passim, Cambridge, MA
Amelia White and Liz Longley were both educated in Boston — although neither is from New England — and now reside in Nashville. Moreover, both have upcoming gigs at Club Passim. On January 30, Berklee alum Liz Longley will play two sets of material drawn from her five albums and more than likely something from her in-the-works sixth one. She will also be at Tupelo Music Hall in Derry, NH on January 27 and Fall River’s Narrows Center for the Arts on the 31st if the Cambridge dates don’t fit into your schedule.
Cleveland native Jon Spencer was the cofounder of Pussy Galore and Boss Hogg in the 1980s, a first among equals in the 2000s bands Heavy Trash and Spencer Dickinson, and the leader of the eponymous Blues Explosion throughout the 90s and aughts. Since 2006, he has released three solo albums, the most recent of which is last November’s Spencer Sings the Hits, which is neither a covers nor best-of collection. Throughout all of these projects, Spencer has unceasingly probed his unique vision of blues, punk, rockabilly, and garage rock. The HITmakers are backing him on his current tour, which includes a gig at Great Scott this Friday.
Boston’s The Band That Time Forgot boasts on its website, “We play all original songs. We just didn’t write them.” So yes, TBTTF is a cover band whose setlists include material by the best-known artists of the ’60s as well as comparatively obscure bands such as Count Five, The Cyrkle, The Human Beinz, and The Music Explosion. Here is an interview with drummer and Arts Fuse film critic Tim Jackson, who will return to The Burren with the re-untied Robin Lane & the Chartbusters exactly one month after TBTTF’s February 2 gig there.
In his Arts Fuse review of a 2015 show by The Zombies, veteran Boston music journalist Brett Milano wrote, “I have a short list of the greatest singers I’ve seen live—Sandy Denny, Aaron Neville, Maddy Prior, the Everly Brothers—and Blunstone is right up there.” (Here is my review of the same show.) Colin Blunstone has been the lead singer of the 2019 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees since the early 1960s, most famously on the smash singles “She’s Not There,” “Tell Her No,” and “Time of the Season.” He also recorded half a dozen solo albums in the 1970s after The Zombies broke up in late 1967. Blunstone’s solo US tours are rare, but the seven-date jaunt that begins on January 31 includes a February 5 stop at City Winery in Boston. (My Arts Fuse interview with Blunstone is forthcoming.)
— Blake Maddux
The Schoolhouse Gate: Public Education, the Supreme Court, and the Battle for the American Mind
January 29 at 7 p.m.
Harvard Book Store, Cambridge MA
“Justin Driver maintains that since the 1970s the Supreme Court has regularly abdicated its responsibility for protecting students’ constitutional rights and risked transforming public schools into Constitution-free zones.The Schoolhouse Gate gives a fresh, lucid, and provocative account of the historic legal battles waged over education and illuminates contemporary disputes that continue to fracture the nation.”
The Indispensable Composers: A Personal Guide
January 30 at 7 p.m.
Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, MA
“In The Indispensable Composers, Tommasini offers his own personal guide to the canon—and what greatness really means in classical music. What does it mean to be canonical now? Who gets to say? And do we have enough perspective on the 20th century to even begin assessing it? To make his case, Tommasini draws on elements of biography, the anxiety of influence, the composer’s relationships with colleagues, and shifting attitudes toward a composer’s work over time. Because he has spent his life contemplating these titans, Tommasini shares impressions from performances he has heard or given or moments when his own biography proves revealing.”
February 1 at 3 p.m.
Harvard Book Store, Cambridge MA
“Through case studies of Congress, finance, the academy, the media, and the law, Lessig shows how institutions are drawn away from higher purposes and toward money, power, quick rewards—the first steps to corruption. Lessig knows that a charge so broad should not be levied lightly, and that our instinct will be to resist it. So he brings copious, damning detail gleaned from years of research, building a case that is all but incontrovertible: America is on the wrong path. If we don’t acknowledge our own part in that and act now to change it, we will hand our children a less perfect union than we were given. It will be a long struggle. This book represents the first steps.”
Enlightenment Now: The Case For Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress
February 1 at 7 p.m.
Brookline Booksmith, Coolidge Corner, MA
“Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? In this elegant assessment of the human condition in the third millennium, cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom which play to our psychological biases. Instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise – not just in the West, but worldwide.”
Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison
February 6 at 6 p.m. (Doors open at 5:30)
Brattle Theatre, Cambridge MA
Tickets are $32 with book, $6 without
“In July 2014, Washington Post Tehran bureau chief Jason Rezaian was arrested by Iranian police, accused of spying for America. The charges were absurd. Rezaian’s reporting was a mix of human interest stories and political analysis. While in prison, Rezaian had tireless advocates working on his behalf. His brother lobbied political heavyweights including John Kerry and Barack Obama and started a social media campaign—#FreeJason—while Jason’s wife navigated the red tape of the Iranian security apparatus, all while the courts used Rezaian as a bargaining chip in negotiations for the Iran nuclear deal.”
Empathy: A History
January 10 at 7 p.m.
Porter Square Books, Cambridge MA
“Empathy: A History tells the fascinating and largely unknown story of the first appearance of “empathy” in 1908 and tracks its shifting meanings over the following century. Despite empathy’s ubiquity today, few realize that it began as a translation of Einfühlung or “in-feeling” in German psychological aesthetics that described how spectators projected their own feelings and movements into objects of art and nature. This meticulously researched book uncovers empathy’s historical layers, offering a rich portrait of the tension between the reach of one’s own imagination and the realities of others’ experiences.”
— Matt Hanson
Black Leopard, Red Wolf
February 7 at 7 p.m.
Presented by the Harvard Book Store at the First Parish Church
1446 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA.
I have heard good things about the complicated fantasy fiction of this Man Booker Prize–winning novelist. According to Kirkus Reviews “he not only brings a fresh multicultural perspective to a grand fantasy subgenre, but also broadens the genre’s psychological and metaphysical possibilities.” His latest book is eliciting tantalizing comparisons to Tolkien and Angela Carter.
— Bill Marx