Arts Fuse critics select the best in film, dance, visual art, theater, music, and author events for the coming weeks.
January 26 at 8:30 p.m.
Kendall Square Cinema, Cambridge, MA
This simulcast premiere from Sundance of The Climb, which won the Coup de Coeur prize at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, will screen in only 10 theaters around the U.S. Kyle and Mike are best friends who share a close bond — until Mike sleeps with Kyle’s fiancée. The Climb explores the tumultuous but enduring relationship between two men across many years of laughter, heartbreak, and rage. It is also the story of two real-life best friends — director Michael Angelo Covino and co-writer Kyle Marvin.
Iranian New Wave
Tuesdays at 10 a.m., January 28 through February 25
At the Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline
Professor Andre Puca will take an in-depth look at the Iranian New Wave, a movement that occurred in the midst of great sociopolitical upheaval. Of course, the tensions are ongoing. Iran’s film industry has always been state regulated, but in 1978 and ’79 the arrival of the Islamic revolution made it increasingly difficult for new wave directors to express their vision of an Islamic culture free from the strictures and “guidance” of a dogmatic, government-enforced censorship code. Please note that each class session will run approximately three hours.
Boston Festival of Films from Japan
January 30 – February 23
Museum of Fine Arts in Boston
For the third year the MFA presents the the best of the recent crop of films produced in Japan. The festival opens with a free screening of Okko’s Inn (ticket required), an unusual ghost story (based on a series of Japanese children’s novels) that is firmly grounded in the trials and joys of humanity. It is the latest feature from famed anime studio Madhouse and director Kitarō Kōsaka. Also featured are Takashi Miike’s neo-noir First Love and Shinobu Yaguchi’s award-winning Dance with Me, a musical road trip adventure filled with dance, humor, and heart.
2020 Boston Israeli Film Festival
At various locations: Brattle Theater, JCC Riemer-Goldstein Theater in Newton, MA, and West Newton Cinema
Nine of the most talked about Israeli films of the year, followed by conversations with visiting filmmakers and local speakers.
45th Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival
February 7 through 16
Somerville Theater in Davis Square
Boston “Sci-Fi” is an 11-day cinematic event. It has become one of the longest running genre fests in the world. There are features, shorts, webisodes, workshops, parties, and a welcome emphasis on emerging directors with distinct visions. The All-Access Pass includes the “Marathon” all-shorts programs, feature films, workshops, panels, select parties, and behind-the-scenes events. The “Marathon” starts at noon on the 16th and ends at noon on President’s Day. Festival Pass and Individual Tickets
February 10 at 7 p.m.
Brattle Theatre in Cambridge
Description: “Diego is a circus artist performing for indifferent tourists in Puerto Vallarta when his elderly grandmother, América, falls and hurts herself. In response, Diego and his brothers reunite to take care of América, help her recover, and fight to release their father from jail for elder negligence. First-time feature directors lived with this extraordinary family over three years, capturing their love for and dedication to each other with a joyful, intimate approach that never relinquishes its grip on the difficulties of caregiving and the complexities of living.” This Docyard presentation features the filmmakers Erick Stoll and Chase Whiteside in person for a post-screening Q&A with the DocYard’s Guest Curator, Abby Sun.
— Tim Jackson
Children of the Sun
February 7 through 9
At the Bright Family Screening Room, Emerson Paramount Center, 559 Washington Street, Boston, MA.
What looks like a promisingly wild adaptation (from Russia’s Red Torch Theatre) of Maxim Gorky’s 1905 drama about intellectuals adrift before the Revolution. The press material says the staging looks at “the new middle-class, foolish perhaps but likeable, as they flounder, philosophize, and yearn for meaning, all while being totally blind to their impending annihilation. Multi-award-winning director Timofey Kulyabin’s (Three Sisters, Onegin) modernized production, set in 1999 at Stanford University, focuses on the interplay between the characters, the relationships formed and broken, sparring over culture and the cosmos, barely sensing that their own privileged world is in jeopardy.” An offering from Stage Russia, “an intercultural project that films performances presented by the finest theater companies in Russia and distributes them in HD, translated and subtitled, into cinemas, arts centers and universities across the globe.”
— Bill Marx
February 6 at 8 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston, MA.
Pianist Cyrus Chestnut’s resumé includes Jon Hendricks, the Terence Blanchard-Donald Harrison quintet, Betty Carter, and Wynton Marsalis. His bravura technique boasts a sensitive, nuanced touch along with the dazzle.
Cécile McLorin Savant and Aaron Diehl
February 7 at 8 p.m.
Jordan Hall, Boston, MA.
Cécile McLorin Salvant is simply one of the best singers (of any kind) before the public today (with material including everything from ancient folk and blues to Burt Bacharach/Hal David and originals). The fine pianist Aaron Diehl for years backed up her up with his trio. This is a duo performance at the august Jordan Hall. Read Steve Elman’s Arts Fuse preview and appreciation of the singer.
February 8 at 8 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston, MA.
This young band share the common bond of the Berklee College of Music: Cuban-born pianist-singer-bandleader Zahili Gonzalez Zamora with Chilean bassist Gerson Esteban Lazo Quiroga, Japanese percussionist Takafumi Nikaido, and guest trumpeter Paul Sanchez Pacheco of Ecuador.
February 8 at 8 p.m.
Berklee Performance Center, Boston MA.
Speaking of formidable vocalists, the vastly accomplished Dianne Reeves (Grammys, NEA Jazz Master) — rich in both interpretive acumen and vocal prowess — holds forth with a superb band: pianist Peter Martin, guitarist Romero Lubambo, bassist Reginald Veal, and drummer Terreon Gully.
The Mobile Trio
February 8 at 8:30 p.m.
Q Division Studios, Somerville, MA.
The Mobile Trio is composer Ben Schwendener on Rhodes and synthesizers, Marc Friedman (The Slip, Ryan Montbleau, Krush Faktory) on bass, and Boey Russell (Krush Faktory, Sarah Borges) on drums. Schwendener is a wide-ranging player and composer (he was for several years the great composer George Russell’s right-hand man). The word is: “Expect original groove-based instrumental music rooted in jazz and beyond.” You can see them play “Oil Burner” (with drummer Kenwood Dennard) here.
Composers Saxophone Quartet
February 9 at 1:30 p.m.
Lilypad, Cambridge, MA.
For a while in the ’80s, it looked like the saxophone quartet was going to become as popular in jazz as the string quartet in classical music — the World Saxophone Quartet (preeminent among them), Your Neighborhood Saxophone Quartet from Boston, Rova from San Francisco, and numerous others. The Composers Saxophone Quartet — a group that came together in the Boston area playing in big bands — carries on the tradition, writing their own pieces and arranging work by others. (Their “covers” range from the standard “Deed I Do” to Moondog’s “Bird’s Lament.”) The band is Diane Wernick on soprano and alto; Rick Stone on alto; Sean Berry on tenor; and Kathy Olson on baritone.
February 13 at 7:30 p.m.
Regattabar, Cambridge, MA.
The name comes from meridian 71 west, the longitude that passes through East Boston, home of bandleader-drummer Giuseppe Paradiso. He’s led this project since 2012, and tonight celebrates the release of their second album, Metropolitan Sketches. The impressive band includes trumpeter Phil Grenadier; Mark Zaleski on saxophones and clarinet; pianist and keyboardist Utar Artun; guitarist Phil Sargent; bassist Galen Willett; Malick Ngom on sabar and West African drums; and Paradiso on drums and percussion. Paradiso characterizes the music as “a global sound with influences that range mainly from jazz and improvised music to Mediterranean and West African music traditions,” reflecting “extensive and ongoing research into various traditions and cultures. “
— Jon Garelick
Tim Ray (p), John Lockwood (b), Mark Walker (dm) – on February 4 at 7 p.m at David Friend Recital Hall (a Berklee venue), 921 Boylston St., Boston, MA. It’s a great compliment to pianist Tim Ray that two artists who are leaders in their own right are willing to work with him in the classic format of the piano trio – which is just what John Pattitucci and Terri Lyne Carrington did for Ray’s latest CD, Excursions & Adventures. Ray’s regular trio (with two players who are outstanding in their own rights) will play some of that new material in this concert. Ray makes his home in the Boston area and occasionally gigs at the Mad Monkfish, when he is not touring with one of the many major artists (like Tony Bennett) who demand his skills. In this more formal setting, you’ll be able to appreciate his penetrating intelligence and beautiful sound without the distraction of clinking glasses and clashing flatware. Don’t miss it.
Jazz is PHSH, including Adam Chase (dm), Matthew Chase (g), with others to be announced, on February 4, at 8 p.m. at City Winery, 80 Beverly Street, Boston, MA Sponsored by Global Arts Live. You have to give credit to Global Arts Live for partnering with City Winery. The downtown restaurant / performance space has so far been primarily a venue for pop and folk-oriented acts, and 2020 marks the debut of a Global Arts series there, which promises some very interesting world music acts and a couple with a jazz orientation. One of the first jazzish shows is this one, with “Jazz is PHSH” – yes, the spelling is shown as the band wishes it – the Chase brothers’ instrumental group dedicated to performing repertoire of the jam-band Phish.
— Steve Elman
Dana Sandler in Concert
January 26 at 4 p.m.
Temple Shalom, Newton, MA
A tantalizing mash-up: the world premiere of music based on I Never Saw Another Butterfly, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Sandler put a selection of poems from the well-known book to chamber jazz music. The poems were written by children at the Terezin Concentration Camp in the Czech Republic from 1942-1944.
Her composition is a song-cycle comprised of nine musical settings, highlighting three poets, Pavel Friedmann (1921-44), Franta Bass (1930-44), Alena Synkova-Munkova (1926-2008), and two additional unknown poets who were all young prisoners in Terezín Concentration Camp. Sandler’s album I Never Saw Another Butterfly will be released on Yom HaShoah, April 20. Copies of the album will be available at the Temple Shalom concert on Jan. 26.
— Bill Marx
Nando Michelin and Ebinho Cardoso
w/ special guest Chico Pinheiro
January 31 at 7:30 p.m.
Regattabar, Cambridge, MA
Two of the most talented mainstays of the Boston area Brazilian/Latin jazz scene joined forces for the stellar 2019 album Engenheiros, poems by the great Brazilian poet João Cabral de Melo Neto that pianist Michelin and bassist/vocalist Cardoso set to MPB (música popular brasileira)–style music. Celebrating the poet’s 100th birthday, they bring that project, along with new settings of poems by another Brazilian literary giant, Manoel de Barros, to the Regattabar. The multigenerational band includes Michelin’s son, drummer Tiago Michelin (Eliane Elias) and Cardoso’s son, vocalist Ian De Musis. The icing on the cake: master guitarist and composer Chico Pinheiro joins the proceedings as a special guest.
February 7 at 8 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston
An international all-star group of Boston-area musicians and Berklee faculty led by saxophonist Dan Moretti gives February a little Latin/Brazilian sizzle. Joining Moretti are longtime Paquito D’Rivera bassist Oscar Stagnaro, originally from Peru; pianist Maxim Lubarsky, a native of Odessa, Ukraine; German (but Brazilian by marriage) drummer Bertram Lehmann; and trumpeter Phil Grenadier. Expect some tasty originals along with hot takes on Brazilian and jazz standards.
Svetlana – Night at the Movies
February 7 at 7:30 p.m.
New York–based vocalist Svetlana grew up in Soviet Russia, entranced by cinema, and it shows on her latest release, Night at the Movies. She brings that thoughtfully gathered collection of songs from films to her Regattabar show. Yes, there are a few usual suspects (“Over the Rainbow,” “Moon River”), but some wonderful surprises, too (“Remember Me” from Coco; “Moonlight” from Sabrina). This promises to be a lovely show.
— Evelyn Rosenthal
During its declining years, the Polaroid Corporation launched increasingly desperate attempts to keep its signature instant film from landing in the dustbin of obsolete technologies. One of the oddest of these was the creation of outsized cameras that exposed gigantic sheets of Polaroid color film. Only a handful were ever made: a room-sized version lived at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, where it was mostly used to photograph paintings. The hope was to create high-end, full-scale, fine-detailed art reproductions with perfectly accurate colors. There were few takers.
But photographer and Cambridge native Elsa Dorfman found other uses for the outsized cameras. The format was perfect for capturing portraits on a scale previously only possible in paint. The color portraits Dorfman composed with her 200 pound, 20×24″ Polaroid camera were an engaging combination of spontaneous informality and the grander scale used by painters like Rembrandt, Velázquez, and Sargent, a combination never really possible with standard-format cameras.
Elsa Dorfman: Me and My Camera (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, February 8 – June 19) is the first exhibition to concentrate on Dorfman’s large-scale autobiographical work. The show brings together a selection of pictures made since 1980, of Dorfman herself or with family members, some part of a series recording her birthdays. The show includes standard-scale black-and-white images from a pre-Polaroid era of her bewilderingly complex career, collected in Elsa’s Housebook: A Woman’s Photojournal (1974), which features Allen Ginsberg and other Beat Generation friends when they visited her Harvard Square home.
Personal Space: Self-Portraits on Paper (MFA, February 8 – June 21) explores a broad range of self-portraits from the last century or so in a wide range of formats and media and by a generous cross-section of modern artists. Many of these are prints, including Xerox transfers of Kiki Smith’s tangled hair and a monumental lithograph by Robert Rauschenberg that features X-rays of his body. Among other artists on view: Käthe Kollwitz, Jim Dine, and Glenn Ligon.
The next installment in the Wadsworth Atheneum’s long-running Matrix series of contemporary artists is Sonya Clark, Matrix 184 (February 6 – May 3). Clark, a “fiber artist” of Afro-Caribbean heritage, uses a variety of ordinary materials, including human hair, to create works that explore racism, African traditions, class, identity, and the history of the African diaspora.
Back in 1970, the RISD Museum of Art presented Raid the Icebox I with Andy Warhol, a self-consciously subversive exhibition that invited Warhol to organize an exhibition based on RISD’s collections, especially objects hidden away in storage (the “icebox”). Warhol’s selection transferred whole sections off shelves and cabinets into the galleries, with complete disregard for art historical significance, authenticity, or condition. This “break the mold” approach has since been copied by museums all over the world. This year, the museum hosts a sequel to the original Raid the Icebox Now with a roster of eight contemporary artists. The last in the series, Raid the Icebox Now with Pablo Helguera: Intentarios/Inventories, opens February 7 and runs through July 18. In it, Helguera, a Mexican artist who lives in New York, draws on RISD’s Nancy Sayles Day Collection of Latin American Art and the collaboration of living Latin American artists and those who knew or worked with others no longer living, “to provide a view of the domestic lives of artworks.”
Colored People Time: Mundane Futures, Quotidian Pasts, Banal Presents (MIT List Art Center, February 7 – April 12) is a group show of established and emerging artists, including Martine Syms, Cameron Rowland, and Kevin Jerome Emerson. The Jim Crow slur “colored people time,” implying that African-Americans are lazy and unreliable, has also been used since the 1960s for various presentations of African-American history and culture. Organized into three chapters, the List show aims to build “new narratives and public discourse around the everyday experiences of black people in the United States.”
The almost impossibly versatile Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks, who died in 2006 at the age of 93, was known as a writer, musician, film director, lifestyle photographer, and, in particular, a photographer who documented a tumultuous era in the history of black people in the United States. Gordon Parks: The New Tide, Early Work, 1940-1950 (Addison Gallery of American Art, February 1 – April 26) covers the first 10 years of that six-decade career, as Parks progressed from a self-taught documentarian, recording ordinary people and life in St. Paul and Chicago, to celebrated photo shoots for Ebony, Glamour, Smart Woman, and Life. The 150 items on view include magazines, books, letters, family pictures, and other items documenting this artist’s professional work and his close personal connections to Roy Stryker, who launched the famed documentary photography movement of the Farm Security Administration, and the leading African-American writers Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, and Ralph Ellison.
— Peter Walsh
Mass Ave, Cambridge: Photos by Karl Baden
Through February 20
At Cambridge Arts’ Gallery 344, 344 Broadway, Cambridge, MA
“Mass Ave, Cambridge began with a conversation between photographer Karl Baden and Lillian Hsu, Cambridge Arts’ Director of Public Art and exhibitions. In recent years, Baden has developed a particular interest in the people, the serendipity, and the visual forms found along our streets and sidewalks. An idea for an exhibition sprung from what seemed like a simple objective: Karl could spend a year and a half recording life along Mass. Ave. from Arlington to the Charles River. But, of course, Mass. Ave. is vividly complex.
“Baden’s resulting Mass. Ave. photos mix objective documentation and personal interpretation. The pictures show people walking down the street, people dancing, people stepping out for a smoke, people bundled up against falling snow, people out in summer shorts. There are smiles and pain and love. You’ll recognize icons of the avenue—the Charles River, Out of Town News, Porter Square. There are dogs and buses, advertising signs, reflections in windows. Side by side, the photos add up to a portrait, unique to our time and place, of the jostle and jumble and life of the thoroughfare.”
Through February 16
At the Boston Cyberarts Gallery, 141 Green Street, Jamaica Plain, Boston, MA
Co-curated by Boston Cyberarts board member (and Arts Fuse associate editor) Mark Favermann, assistant director Keaton Fox, and executive director/founder George Fifield, the show “is a mix of historic and contemporary art and design pieces skillfully and aesthetically utilizing simple technologies. The works are in conversation with each other, and thus the exhibit showcases a collection of intriguing artistic devices that use technologies that are now part of our collective cultural memory and are now nostalgic.”
— Bill Marx
Roots and World Music
Half Pint with Andrew Bees, King Hopeton and the Yellow Wall Dub Squad
Thunder Road, Cambridge, MA
One of the most enduring rub-a-dub reggae artists, Half Pint ruled the charts in the ’80s with “Greetings” and “Substitute Lover.” He’s also been covered by rockers like the Rolling Stones and Sublime and remains a beloved staple of the reggae festival circuit. Andrew Bees, who has fronted Black Uhuru in recent years, opens. Those used to “reggae” time should note that the promoters are promising a 7:30 start and a 10 p.m. finish for this weeknight affair.
Guitarist Fiuczynski’s Global Microjam Institute at Berklee explores the connections between East and West. Yazhi Guo, master of the suona (Chinese oboe), joins Berklee faculty and students for these two concerts that mix jazz, Chinese, classical and microtonal music.
Chinese New Year Dragon Parade
Phillips Square, Boston Chinatown
February 2, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Kick off the Year of the Rat with the annual Chinatown New Year parade. Besides the famous dragons there will be arts and crafts, Chinese calligraphy, and music.
Journeys in Sound 100th Concert with Afarin Nazarijou and SeaSmoke
House Concert, Newtonville, MA
Grassroots impresario John Bechard’s Journeys in Sound series is celebrating its 100th concert with an appropriately globe-trotting pairing. Afarin Nazarijou is a rising virtuoso of the qanun, the Persian zither-like instrument. SeaSmoke is an all-star ensemble made up of Hindustani, blues, and rock musicians playing selections from the American vernacular songbook as well as originals. Those interesting in attending can make a reservation at email@example.com.
Atwood’s Tavern, Cambridge MA
Raised in the rich musical soil of the Texas/Louisiana border, Dayton has maintained his traditional country roots while at the same time, keeping the commentary in his songs up to the minute, as seen in his video for “Charlottesville.” While such anti-facist sentiments are blacklisting him from country radio, he’s become enough of an Americana darling that grabbing an advance ticket for his visit to tiny Atwood’s would be a wise move.
— Noah Schaffer
Looking for something more avant-garde? iTMRW combines live music by Arc Iris and contemporary ballet by the HDC Dance Ensemble to “satirize a post-apocalyptic world where advertisements come in the form of “pop-up thoughts” and entire cities float on islands of trash.” Journey into the year 2080, as Robert and his android partner, Jenny, navigate the waters of society, technology, and the human spirit.
January 31 and February 1
The Dance Complex
Head to the Dance Complex for the creative, culminating performances of its CATALYSTS artists-in-residence program. The six-month residency for artists present participants’ final works in rotation throughout three weekends. Visit the Dance Complex website to learn who will present their works when: Em Papineau and Sofia Engelman; Kimberleigh Holman; Jennifer Lin; Alli Ross; Ruka White; and Michael Winward.
January 30, 31, & February 1 at 8 p.m.
NEC’s Plimpton Shattuck Blackbox Theatre, Boston, MA
Well worth taking in the convergence of Dance Magazine‘s “Best Emerging Choreographer” Caleb Teicher and Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Conrad Tao (composer). Teicher’s company bridges a variety of American dance forms, from tap to Lindy Hop. This production is presented by the Celebrity Series of Boston.
Lunar New Year Performance
February 1 at 3:30 p.m.
Boston Children’s Museum, Boston, MA
Celebrate the Lunar New Year and welcome the Year of the Rat by attending one of several events across Boston, featuring dance, games, and art with a focus on Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese traditions. Boston Children’s Museum joins the lineup with this special performance, which features the Boston Korean Traditional Dance Group, whose work is perfect for all ages.
Arts at the Armory, Somerville, MA
It’s that time of year again: January is National Choreography Month (“NACHMO” for short) and Greater Boston is brimming with new works that will be performed within this one-month time frame. Head to Somerville to view this year’s plethora of new dance pieces, including solos, duets, and group works.
— Merli V. Guerra
February 7 and 8
At the Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 S Main St, Concord, NH
Maine based artist Sara Juli’s latest feminist solo performance takes on topics such as monogamy, intimacy, loneliness, and other marital taboos. The dancer “employs her physical and comedic talents to explore autobiographical issues of importance to all women. This full length, multimedia work defies genre and will spark community conversations while exploring the detritus and decay of one woman’s marriage and blowing up the institution with humor, reflection, and a complete re-imagining.”
— Bill Marx
We All Fall Down by Lila Rose Kaplan. Directed by Melia Bensussen. Staged by the Huntington Theatre Company at the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA, 527 Tremont Street, Boston, MA, through February 15.
“This new comedy is about family and tradition, as well as the hang-ups and surprises that, no matter who you are or where you come from, seem to sneak into all of our family gatherings. Linda and Saul Stein still live in the Westchester home where they raised their two beautiful daughters. But when Saul unexpectedly retires, Linda summons the family to celebrate Passover for the first time in decades. Linda tends slightly toward the theatrical (okay, a lot), and their family has never been particularly religious (okay, not at all).” Hilarious complications ensue — I hope. Arts Fuse review
The Cake by Bekah Brunstetter. Directed by Courtney O’Connor. Staged by the Lyric Stage Company at 140 Clarendon Street, Copley Square, Boston, MA, through February 9.
“Conflict collides with confection when Della, a traditional Southern baker who’s preparing to compete on The Big American Bake-Off, reunites with her deceased best friend’s daughter, Jen, in preparation for Jen’s wedding. Della is forced to question her strongly-held beliefs when she is asked to bake Jen’s dream wedding cake for her and her future wife. Questions of morals, judgment, and family swirl around them all.” Arts Fuse review of the 2018 Barrington Stage production. Arts Fuse review of the Lyric Stage production.
Maytag Virgin by Audrey Cefaly. Directed by Eleanor Holdridge. Staged by Merrimack Repertory Theatre at the Nancy L. Donahue Theatre, Liberty Hall, 50 East Merrimack Street, Lowell, MA, through February 2.
“When unflappable Jack moves in next door to sweetly neurotic Lizzie – two fortysomething school teachers, both widowed — the two bond over being lonely and feeling stuck. As they get to know each other, they find themselves searching for an answer to the same question: how do you know when you’re ready to live, and love, again?” Arts Fuse review
Pass Over by Antoinette Nwandu. Directed by Monica White Ndounou, Co-produced by SpeakEasy Stage Company and The Front Porch Arts Collective at the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont St. Boston, MA, through February 2.
In this New England premiere, “Moses and Kitch chat their way through yet another aimless day on their local street corner in a mash-up of Waiting for Godot and the Exodus saga. Crafting everyday profanity into poetic and humorous riffs, the friends share their dreams of deliverance, until an ominous stranger changes their world forever.” Arts Fuse review
Pike St. written and performed by Nilaja Sun. Directed by Ron Russell. At Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford, CT, through February 2.
“Sun vividly brings to life three generations of a Puerto Rican family on New York’s Lower East Side. Evelyn, a mother struggling to hold her life together with both grace and humor as she cares for her immobilized daughter and supports her womanizing father, relies on money from her brother who is serving abroad in Afghanistan. When he comes home, suffering from PTSD, Evelyn fights for her family’s healing, redemption and survival in the face of a threatening storm – both natural and man-made.”
The Effect by Lucy Prebble. Staged by the Mad Horse Theatre Company at the Hutchins School, 24 Mosher Street, South Portland, ME, through January 26.
A script from an interesting thirtysomething British playwright. “When two volunteers for an antidepressant clinical trial start to feel the tell-tale signs—sweaty hands, thumping hearts—they know they’ve fallen for each other hard. Or are their bodies processing a chemical romance? The question at the heart of this script is one for our medicated time, is love the sum of our chemical selves or something more?” Arts Fuse review
Manahatta by Mary Kathryn Nagle. Directed by Laurie Woolery. Yale Rep at Yale Repertory Theatre, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven, CT, through February 15.
An East Coast premiere. The name of the no doubt slippery protagonist could have come out of a Ben Jonson play: “It’s 2008 and securities trader Jane Snake has landed a lucrative job on Wall Street, where her ancestors, the Lenape, were violently removed four hundred years before, when the Dutch “purchased” the island of Manahatta. Past and present intertwine as Jane is caught in the center of a looming mortgage crisis that threatens financial ruin for millions of families––including her own.”
Bright Half Life by Tanya Barfield. Directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian. Staged by the Actors’ Shakespeare Project at the Plaza Theatre, Boston Center for the Arts, Boston, MA, through February 16.
A two-person play that “is the story of two women who meet and fall in love. We see the entirety of their relationship from beginning to end, spanning more than forty years, but in a fascinating non-linear format. Honest, moving, and deeply poignant, we move from moment to moment and experience the complexity of Erica and Vicky’s relationship over time.”
Vanity Fair, An (Im-) morality Play, an adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel by Kate Hamill. Directed by David R Gammons. Staged by Underground Railway Theater at the Central Square Theatre, Cambridge, MA, through February 23.
“Two women – one privileged and the other from the streets – strive to navigate an unfair society that punishes them for every mistake. (Bad) Becky isn’t afraid to break the rules while (Good) Amelia fears even to bend them. Hamill’s adaptation of Thackeray’s Vanity Fair explores how flexible our morals become when our luck turns against us.” Arts Fuse review
boom by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb. Directed by Marta Rainer. Staged by Wellesley Repertory Theatre in the Ruth Nagel Jones Theatre at Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA, through February 9.
Given the climate crisis, the end of the world is a dandy topic for black comedy: “In a evolutionary museum far in the future, a curator tells the story of two present-day people on a first date interrupted by a comet hitting the Earth, with globally catastrophic repercussions. This couple soon finds themselves as the last two people on the planet; the fate of humanity suddenly lands on their shoulders as they realize they could be the new Adam and Eve.”
Last Catastrophist by David Valdes. Directed by Sarah Gazdowicz. Staged by Fresh Ink at the Plaza Black Box Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts, Boston, MA, through February 8.
Another end-of-the-world drama. The dramatist plays with “genre tropes and explores issues related to climate change, resulting in an eco-thriller that imagines a not-so-distant future. In the play, Marina, one of the last two climatologists on earth, has hidden herself on the coast of Iceland to escape increasing threats from Eternal Sunshine, a shadowy cabal harassing climate scientists into silence. When Lucia, her one remaining peer, shows up unannounced, a cat-and-mouse game ensues. Are they allies? Enemies? Who works for whom?”
Hair Book & Lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado. Music by Galt MacDermot. Directed and choregraphed by Rachel Bertone. Staged by New Repertory Theatre on its MainStage Theater at the Mosesian Center for the Arts located at 321 Arsenal Street, Watertown, MA, through February 23.
“With MacDermot’s groundbreaking music and the show’s progressive themes, Hair revolutionized musical theatre as Broadway’s first rock musical in 1968. Emerging from the hippie counter-culture of the 1960s, Rado and Ragni’s story shows a tribe’s journey toward finding their voices in a time of political upheaval, and their use of sex and drugs to evade reality. Featuring the smash hits ‘Aquarius’ and ‘Let the Sunshine In’, this award-winning show is certain to be a nostalgic and groovy experience.” Believe me, this show was considered incredibly square by counterculture types. Somehow it has become “groundbreaking.” Note: This production contains strong language, frequent references to sex and illicit substances, and brief nudity. Recommended for ages 18+. Arts Fuse review
The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes, from Back to Back Theatre. Creative Development Artists: Bruce Gladwin, Mark Deans, Sarah Mainwaring, Scott Price, Simon Laherty, Sonia Teuben & Victoria Marshall. Directed by Gladwin. Presented by Arts Emerson at the Emerson Paramount Center in the Jackie Liebergott Black Box 559 Washington Street, Boston, MA, on January 26.
Looks like this American premiere will be a refreshingly different evening: A show from “one of Australia’s most recognized and respected contemporary theater companies. Committed to inclusion for people with disabilities, Back to Back Theatre brings audiences into the world of accessibility and inaccessibility via performers whose real lives intersect with those precise issues on a daily basis.” Arts Fuse review
The intriguing set-up: “When a group of activists with intellectual disabilities holds a public meeting, they discover a history they would prefer not to know, and a future that is ambivalent. As the frank, funny and challenging conversation jumps from topic to topic — factory farming, human rights, the social impact of automation — the presence of an artificial intelligence in the room expands, begging the question: Who precisely is the fittest to survive in the age of AI?”
Gloria: A Life by Emily Mann. Directed by Diane Paulus. Staged by the American Repertory Theater (In association with the McCarter Theatre Center and by special arrangement with Daryl Roth)at the Loeb Drama Center, Cambridge, MA, through March 1.
See it before it goes to New York. “This new play about Gloria Steinem and the women she has partnered with in a decades-long fight for equality is brought to life by a dynamic ensemble of performers. Fifty years after Gloria began raising her voice and championing those of others, her vision is as urgent as ever. Gloria’s belief in talking circles as a catalyst for change offers us all a path forward. The first act is Gloria’s story; the second is our own.” Note: This production includes strong language, mature themes, and discussions of sexual harassment and violence. Arts Fuse review
King John by William Shakespeare. Directed by Kimberly Gaughan. Staged by Praxis Stage at the South End / Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA, Boston, MA, January 30 through February 16.
It isn’t often I have to pull out my Complete Oxford Shakespeare, but it has been a long time since I have read this very, very rarely staged history play. Praxis Stage insists the script is “subversive with its strikingly skeptical vision of history and how identities of nations are formed. Shakespeare dramatizes the capricious relationship between intention and outcome as personal umbrages jostle international politics. Great men create great messes. Intelligent, iron-willed women adeptly clean things up.” Who knows? Shakespeare scholar Virginia Mason Vaughan defends the maligned script: “Somewhere between the two tetralogies … lies Shakespeare’s King John, neglected because it does not fall within the broad scope of a series, and scorned as unpopular and untheatrical … In King John we miss a sense of history as a continuing process. What we gain, however, is an intense focus on the political present — the here and now of decision-making.” Ok, but why did the Bard leave out the 1215 signing of the Magna Carta? Arts Fuse review
Detroit Red by Will Power. Directed by Lee Sunday Evans. Produced by ArtsEmerson at the Emerson Paramount Center, Robert J. Orchard Stage, 559 Washington Street, Boston, MA, through February 16.
A world premiere production: “The world forever knows him as Malcolm X, but when he lived in Roxbury, they called him “Detroit Red.” Internationally renowned playwright Will Power combines the accuracy of a historian with the lyricism of a poet to shine a contemporary light on a pivotal coming-of-age moment in the celebrated, controversial civil rights leader’s life.”
Radio Golf by August Wilson. Directed by Jude Sandy. Staged by Trinity Rep at the Dowling Theatre, 201 Washington Street, Providence, RI, January 30 through March 1.
Pulitzer-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks interviewed August Wilson shortly before his death. Asked about this script, the final in his cycle of ten plays depicting the Black experience decade by decade through the 20th century, Wilson responded that he “had to in some way deal with the black middle class, which for the most part is not in the other nine plays.” Parks’s reply: “You are wild in ways that people aren’t even hip to…. Within the lines of this play, you’ve made a place for the unconventional, the bit that does not traditionally fit, the outsider, the digression, the seemingly extraneous.”
“HAMLET 360: THY FATHER’S SPIRIT Adapted & directed by Steven Maler. Production & Cinematography by Sensorium. Presented, staged, video-wrangled by Commonwealth Shakespeare Company at the Mezz 24th Floor Rooftop Lounge, Moxy Downtown Boston, 240 Tremont Street, Boston, MA January 30 through February 1.
“Commonwealth Shakespeare Company has taken Shakespeare’s most iconic play to meet the cutting edge of immersive storytelling in Hamlet 360: Thy Father’s Spirit, embracing the immersive power of VR to plunge the viewer into Hamlet’s harrowing journey. It is a 60-minute, cinematic, 360-degree adaptation that explores new dimensions of the medium by casting the viewer as the Ghost of Hamlet’s dead father, giving the viewer a sense of agency and urgency as an omniscient observer, guide and participant.”
“The experience is being released in partnership with Boston public media producer WGBH and can be viewed exclusively on the WGBH YouTube channel. The 360 video is best viewed using a VR headset, such as the Google Pixel phone with Google Cardboard or Daydream View. For further information about the experience and behind the scenes content visit WGBH’s website at https://www.wgbh.org/hamlet360.”
Robert Frost: This Verse Business by A.M. Dolan. Directed by Gus Kaikkonen. Staged by the Peterborough Players at 55 Hadley Road, Peterborough, NH, February 6 through 16.
In this solo show, actor Gordon Clapp once again (he performed the play in 2010 for the Peterborough Players) breathes life into Robert Frost, who is poised and waiting for the birth of a new poem. “Why don’t I say some poems to ya I’ve already written … and we’ll see if another one creeps up on me.”
Under the Northern Lights
January 31 at 8 p.m.
At the Follen Church, 755 Massachusetts Avenue, Lexington, MA
February 1 at 8 p.m.
At the Longy School of Music, 27 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA
On the Cantata Singers program: rarely performed chamber music from Nordic countries Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland.
Celebrating the 300th year of Bach Sonatas and Partitas
January 31 at 7:30 p.m.
At the Jordan Hall/New England Conservatory, 30 Gainsborough Street, Boston, MA
The Foundation for the Chinese Performing Arts presents violinist Joseph Lin performing Bach sonatas and partitas.
February 2 at 4 p.m.
First Church in Boston, 66 Marlborough Street, Boston, MA
On the Glissando Concert Series program: Suite No. 1 for Two Pianos, Op. 5, Six Pieces for Piano Four Hands, Op. 11, and Symphonic Dances, Op. 45 (arranged for two pianos by the composer).
Magical Duos and Trios
February 2 at 3 p.m.
At Carter Memorial United Methodist Church, 800 Highland Avenue, Needham, MA
On the Needham Concert Society program: Karol Lipiński’s Trio in A Major, Op. 12 for two violins and cello; Fritz Kreisler’s Recitative and Scherzo-Caprice, Op. 6 for solo violin: Zoltán Kodály’s Duo for violin and cello, Op. 7; Sergei Prokofiev’s Sonata for Two Violins in C Major, Op. 56; Johan Halvorsen’s Concert Caprice on Norwegian Melodies for two violins; Antonín Dvořák’s Bagatelles, Op. 47 for two violins, cello, and harmonium.
Boston Early Music Festival presents: La Capella Reial de Catalunya & Hespèrion XXI
February 7 at 8 p.m.
Sanders Theatre/Harvard University, 45 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA
On the program: In the 16th and 17th centuries, art and culture flourished in a “Golden Century” across the cultural melting pot of the Iberian Peninsula. Painting, literature, architecture, and music all thrived during this period of political and cultural ascendancy. Viol virtuoso Jordi Savall showcases the musical splendor of his Catalan homeland in this concert which features the vocal ensemble La Capella Reial de Catalunya and Savall’s famous consort of virtuoso instrumentalists, Hespèrion XXI.
— Susan Miron
Haydn’s Nelson Mass
Presented by Handel & Haydn Society
January 26 at 3 p.m.
Symphony Hall, Boston, MA
Harry Christophers returns to Boston to lead H&H in two pieces by one of its namesakes – the Symphony no. 100 and the glorious Lord Nelson Mass – alongside Mozart’s Violin Concerto no. 4. H&H concertmaster Aisslinn Nosky is the soloist in the latter.
Bronfman plays Mozart
Presented by Boston Symphony Orchestra
January 30-February 1, 8 p.m. (1:30 p.m. on Friday)
Symphony Hall, Boston, MA
Yefim Bronfman playing Mozart’s C-minor Piano Concerto makes this program – the BSO’s last tune-up before its February tour to Asia – one of the season’s high points. Neither does the night’s remaining fare, Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra and the second suite from Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé, disappoint.
Presented by A Far Cry
February 1, 4 p.m.
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Jamaica Plain, MA
The Criers’ continue an admirable season-long survey of works from 1920s and ’30s Germany with this concert of rarely heard chamber pieces by Paul Hindemith, Kurt Weill, and Paul Juon.
The Chronicle of Nine
Presented by Odyssey Opera
February 1, 7:30 p.m.
Jordan Hall, Boston, MA
Odyssey Opera’s season continues with the world premiere of Arnold Rosner’s The Chronicle of Nine: the Tragedy of Queen Jane. Megan Pachecano sings the title role and Gil Rose conducts this semi-staged production.
— Jonathan Blumhofer
Agency: A Novel
January 27 at 7 p.m.
First Parish Church, Cambridge MA
Tickets are $29.75 with book, $8 without
William Gibson has trained his eye on the future for decades, ever since coining the term “cyberspace” and then popularizing it in his classic speculative novel Neuromancer in the early 1980s. Cory Doctorow raved that The Peripheral is “spectacular, a piece of trenchant, far-future speculation that features all the eyeball kicks of Neuromancer.” Now Gibson is back with Agency—a science fiction thriller heavily influenced by our most current events. Verity Jane, gifted app whisperer, takes a job as the beta tester for a new product: a digital assistant, accessed through a pair of ordinary-looking glasses. “Eunice,” the disarmingly human AI in the glasses, manifests a face, a fragmentary past, and a canny grasp of combat strategy. Realizing that her cryptic new employers don’t yet know how powerful and valuable Eunice is, Verity instinctively decides that it’s best they don’t.”
The Making of A Miracle: The Untold Story of the Captain of the 1980 Gold Medal- Winning US Olympic Hockey Team
January 29 at 7 p.m.
Porter Square Books, Cambridge MA
“It is the greatest American underdog sports story ever told: how a team of college kids and unsigned amateurs, under the tutelage of legendary coach—and legendary taskmaster—Herb Brooks, beat the elite Soviet hockey team on their way to winning the gold medal at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics. No one believed the scrappy Americans had a real shot at winning. Despite being undefeated, the U.S.—the youngest team in the competition—were facing off against the four-time defending gold medalist Russians. But the Americans’ irrepressible optimism, skill, and fearless attitude helped them outplay the seasoned Soviet team and deliver their iconic win.”
A Century of Votes for Women: American Elections Since Suffrage
January 30 from 6- 7 p.m.
Boston Athenaeum, 10 1/2 Beacon St, Boston MA
Tickets are Free for members, $15 for non-members
“How have American women voted in the first 100 years since the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment? How have popular understandings of women as voters both persisted and changed over time? In A Century of Votes for Women, Christina Wolbrecht and J. Kevin Corder offer an unprecedented account of women voters in American politics over the last ten decades. Bringing together new and existing data, the book provides unique insight into women’s (and men’s) voting behavior and traces how women’s turnout and vote choice evolved across a century of enormous transformation overall and for women in particular. Wolbrecht and Corder show that there is no such thing as ‘the woman voter’; instead they reveal considerable variation in how different groups of women voted in response to changing political, social, and economic realities. The book also demonstrates how assumptions about women as voters influenced politicians, the press, and scholars.”
The Resisters: A Novel
February 4 at 7 p.m.
Harvard Book Store, Cambridge MA
“The time: not so long from now. The place: AutoAmerica. The land: half under water. The Internet: one part artificial intelligence, one part surveillance technology, and oddly human—even funny. The people: Divided. The angel-fair “Netted” have jobs, and literally occupy the high ground. The “Surplus” live on swampland if they’re lucky, on water if they’re not. The story: To a Surplus couple—he once a professor, she still a lawyer—is born a Blasian girl with a golden arm. At two, Gwen is hurling her stuffed animals from the crib; by ten, she can hit whatever target she likes. Her teens find her happily playing in an underground baseball league.”
Joseph “Rev Run” Simmons & Justine Simmons
Old School Love
February 4 at 6 p.m.
Brookline Booksmith, Coolidge Corner MA
Tickets are $30 with book, $8 without
“Run DMC’s iconic rapper Joseph “Reverend Run” Simmons and his wife, Justine, share their secrets to lasting love and the guiding principles that have kept them together for more than twenty years in Old School Love: And Why It Works. The authors will speak at Coolidge Corner Theatre with The Boston Globe’s Meredith Goldstein.”
Arguing With Zombies: Economics, Politics, and the Fight for a Better Future
February 6 at 7:30 (Doors open at 6:30)
Back Bay Events Center, 180 Berkeley Center, Boston MA
Tickets are $35 with copy of book, $25 without
“In Arguing with Zombies, Krugman tackles many of these misunderstandings, taking stock of where the United States has come from and where it’s headed in a series of concise, digestible chapters. Drawn mainly from his popular New York Times column, they cover a wide range of issues, organized thematically and framed in the context of a wider debate. Explaining the complexities of health care, housing bubbles, tax reform, Social Security, and so much more with unrivaled clarity and precision, Arguing with Zombies is Krugman at the height of his powers.
— Matt Hanson
Rock, Pop, and Folk
With more or less equal servings of bombast, self-deprecation (that cover), melancholy, and retroisms, Chris Farren’s 2019 sophomore effort Born Hot manages to be reminiscent of both The Flaming Lips and Jens Lekman. Not the most likely of combinations, to be sure, but Farren is not your garden-variety songcraft practitioner. Highlights are the order of the day on Born Hot, so check out the videos for “Search 4 Me” (above) and “Love Theme From ‘Born Hot’” to get a thumbnail sketch of what the album’s all about. As exhilarating as these are, I assure you that there are even better offerings among the record’s dozen cuts.
As a native of Portsmouth, NH and graduate of Harvard grad, Tom Rush is every inch a product of New England but also “a real national treasure” by James Taylor’s estimation. Rush has released albums as far back as 1962 and as recently as 2018. He will celebrate his 79th birthday on February 8 with a hometown gig at the South Church Unitarian Universalist Church. Before that, however, he will play back-to-back nights at Newburyport’s Firehouse Center for the Arts (and one night, February 1, at Fall River’s Narrows Center). His First Annual Farewell Tour will commence on March 4 in Asheville, NC and work its way up and down the Eastern Seaboard. Read on to learn which of the three major artists who have covered Rush’s song “No Regrets” will also be in the Boston area soon. (Here is the Q&A that I did with Rush in 2015.)
If my math is correct (and that’s a big if), Sidewalk Driver, Party Bois, and Cliff Notez have garnered 16 Boston Music Awards nominations in eight different categories since 2015. (Cliff Notez was also featured on nominees in the Song and Video categories in 2018.) The fact that each has received Live Artist of the Year consideration will make The Sinclair ground zero on Friday night for local music fans who don’t confine their musical samplings to merely one or two genres. Rounding out the quadruple bill — which will set an awfully high bar for the remainder of 2020 — will be Lifestyle, who will sweeten the pot with a sound influenced by (per their Facebook page) Roxy Music, Kraftwerk, New Order, Pet Shop Boys, The Smiths, and Giorgio Moroder.
Lurrie Bell is the son of the late blues harmonica player Carey Bell, who released dozens of his own albums and played on recordings by John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, and many others in his five-decade spanning career. The younger Bell is no slouch himself, as his dozen-plus solo albums and numerous collaborations with his father evince. Bell has been a perennial nominee or winner of Living Blues and National Blues Music awards since 2008. The Massachusetts date of his current tour stops at — where else? — 9 Wallis on February 1.
In the first half-dozen or so years of his career, James “Midge” Ure turned down an invitation to be the Sex Pistols’ lead singer, joined Thin Lizzy mid-tour as a fill-in guitarist, and — most auspiciously — replaced the original vocalist for the new wave quartet Ultravox in 1980. By the end of 1985, he had scored a UK Top 10 hit with a solo version of Tom Rush’s “No Regrets,” cowritten the Band Aid charity song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, and topped the UK singles chart with “If I Was.” Since Ultravox disbanded in 1987, Ure has recorded numerous solo albums, published an autobiography (also titled If I Was), and been named an OBE. The Scotland native’s Songs, Questions, and Answers Tour, an acoustic outing that will include the answering of audience members’ queries, stops at City Winery on February 3. Anyone needing a thorough introduction or refresher need look no further than his 2019 two-disc compilation Soundtrack: 1978-2019. (Here is the interview that I did with Ure in 2015.)
— Blake Maddux