Compiled by Bill Marx
In the age of COVID-19, Arts Fuse critics have come up with a guide to film, dance, visual art, theater, and music — mostly available by streaming — for the coming weeks. More offerings will be added as they come in.
LOCAL THEATER RECOMMENDATIONS
To the Ends of the Earth
Brattle Virtual Theatre
Set entirely in Uzbekistan, a young actress named Yoko dutifully engages in her duties as a travel show host while an erratic production crew makes her doing her job increasingly difficult. Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa is best known for horror films (Cure, Pulse, Creepy) and knows how to make an audience uneasy as they laugh at seemingly absurd events. The film adroitly blends history, cultural dissonance, comedy, and suspense. Atsuko Maeda, who sang with the successful girl group AKB48, plays the resilient heroine with great charm — and she can really sing (wait for it!). One of my Best Foreign Language films of 2020.
Coolidge Corner Virtual Screening Room
Adapted from Jack London ‘s 1909 novel by Italian filmmaker Pietro Marcello, the movie ranges from Oakland to Naples. The movie has the feel of earlier Italian epics from the likes of Visconti, with elements of neo-realism and French New Wave. Of Eden’s character, The Fuse‘s Gerald Peary declares: “He prefigures Ayn Rand in his attacks on liberalism and government controls and his bragging about himself as one of a small number of uncompromised “individualists.” Arts Fuse review
— Tim Jackson
the reason i jump
Kino Marquee from January 8
A fascinating attempt to look at the world through the eyes of people with autism, though it is somewhat heavy on visual lyricism. Must the perspectives of the neuro-diverse always be so beautiful? Still, a meaningful and moving step toward a refreshed vision of ourselves. The film is based on the best-selling book by Naoki Higashida, written when he was 13. “Higashida’s child’s-eye view of autism is as much a winsome work of the imagination as it is a user’s manual for parents, carers and teachers. . . . This book gives us autism from the inside, as we have never seen it. . . . [Higashida] offers readers eloquent access into an almost entirely unknown world.” (Independent)
— Bill Marx
— Tim Jackson
Hiromi’s New Year’s Eve Countdown December 31 at 11 p.m. EST through 12:15 a.m. on January 1, 2021.
The world-renowned Japanese pianist, Hiromi, streaming live from her home base at the Blue Note in Tokyo, will be performing a special show to coincide with New Year’s Eve in New York. The show will benefit the Blue Note New York while it is currently closed. Her heart is with the Blue Note New York and jazz fans around the world in this unprecedented time.
— Bill Marx
Kris Adams & Angelo Lazzeri Duo January 10, 1:30 p.m. EST
Over the past four years, Boston-based jazz singer and Berklee professor Kris Adams has worked with Italian guitarist/composer/arranger Angelo Lazzeri in Boston; New York; Valencia, Spain; and Perugia, Italy. On Sunday, January 10, the two will present an intimate livestream from Lazzeri’s home in Perugia. The concert will include jazz classics from the 1930s, along with more modern repertoire from the ’60s, ’90s, and this century, by composers including Carla Bley, Egberto Gismonti, Fred Hersch, and Kenny Wheeler; songs by the last three feature words by the English jazz singer Norma Winstone, whose stunning lyrics, Adams says, have served as a model for her own. (You can check out Adams’s own poetic prowess on her most recent album, 2018’s We Should Have Danced.)
— Evelyn Rosenthal
Through Her Eyes- A Newport Nutcracker Reimagined
Online streaming through January 3, 2021
This holiday season, The Nutcracker is being reimagined by innovative dance companies across New England. One of the new versions is the result of an impressive collaboration between Island Moving Company and renowned filmmaker Marta Renzi. Through Her Eyes – A Newport Nutcracker Reimagined was filmed at the majestic properties of the Preservation Society of Newport County.
A Christmas Celtic Sojourn
On-demand viewing: through January 2, 2021
Although accessed online, fans of the annual production A Christmas Celtic Sojourn will still have the opportunity to see this spectacular event broadcast live from theaters across New England, including The VET, Cutler Majestic Theatre, and Shalin Liu Performance Center, among others. Host Brian O’Donovan introduces the artists and regales audiences with some of his favorite poems and stories amidst this lively performance of music and dance. For a complete itinerary of which performances will be broadcast from where, please visit the link above.
— Merli V. Guerra
A Christmas Carol, an adaptation of the Charles Dickens story by Jefferson Mays, Susan Lyons, and Michael Arden. Conceived by Michael Arden and Dane Laffrey. Directed by Arden. Livestreamed via The Regent Theatre through January 3, 2021.
A Xmas experiment in versatility if nothing else. “Experience A Christmas Carol unlike any other—past, present or future. The timeless tale of Ebenezer Scrooge has been given new life thanks to the haunting vision of one of Broadway’s most imaginative directors, Michael Arden (Tony-winning Best Revival – Once on This Island), and the Tony-winning virtuoso Jefferson Mays (I Am My Own Wife, Gentleman’s Guide...), starring in 50 roles.” Mays is quoted as saying about this production, “I haunt myself for an hour and a half.”
“A large portion of your ticket will benefit The Regent! ‘Tis the season for giving – when you stream this production, you’re also helping to sustain your local theatre community through these extraordinary times.”
The Legion Tapes, a new sci-fi theater podcast written by Erin Lerch and directed by Josh Glenn-Kayden.
Makes sense to me, given that our own meltdown has become routine. We need to spice it up with “radio broadcasts from an alien apocalypse.” The podcast features “a cast of 14 actors with Boston ties.” The project launched last week and just dropped episodes 4-6. The dystopian setup: “Selections from an archive chronicling the world after the end. The alien Legion takes over worlds and absorbs the sentients of those worlds. They’ve assimilated eleven species so far, and humanity is next on their list. But even after the nations of the world fall, and even after being reduced to communicating solely by radio, humanity’s fighting back. ”
“The Boston Project is SpeakEasy Stage Company’s new works initiative, which supports the creation of new plays set in the Greater Boston area. In an effort to reach a wider audience and engage with new work even while in quarantine, the company has launched a new wing of this program – the Boston Project Podcast!” A new episode each Friday. We are up to episode 4 (I believe) of MJ Halberstadt’s The Usual Unusual, directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian.
The action centers on a “scrappy and quaint bookstore where Boston’s LGBTQ+ community has gathered to shop, organize, and flirt since the ’70s. When the store’s charismatic founder Penn announces his retirement, neurotic staff-member Charlie persuades him to pass leadership on, rather than close the store. The staff’s efforts to unite a fractured community under one banner – or simply coordinate a weekly reading night — stoke generational disputes about identity, community, and trauma, and lead to fraught and hilarious results.” Arts Fuse review of Episodes 1 through 5.
Dream Boston Plays, a new series of short audio plays produced by the Huntington Theatre Company: By the Rude Bridge by Melinda Lopez; Overture by Kate Snodgrass; McKim by Brenda Withers; and The 54th in ’22 by Kirsten Greenidge. Seven additional titles have been added to this series of short audio plays, entitled Dream Boston. Four plays were posted in July; the next seven are now being released. They are available on the Huntington’s website, as well as on Apple, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher.
“Conceived and commissioned by the Huntington artistic department, the company asked Huntington Playwriting Fellow alumni Kirsten Greenidge, Kate Snodgrass, and Brenda Withers, and Huntington Artist-in-Residence Melinda Lopez, to imagine their favorite locations, landmarks, and friends in a future Boston, when people can once again meet and thrive in the city – a vision of a future Boston that is somewhere between dream and reality. Arts Fuse review of Episodes 1 through 5.
“This next set of 7 plays includes works by local artists John Oluwole ADEkoje, Miranda ADEkoje, J. Sebastián Alberdi, Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro, Elle Borders, Patrick Gabridge, and John Kuntz. Each play is set at a specific local landmark with 1-3 characters, and is about 6 minutes in length. The local landmarks that serve as settings for this round of audio plays include Franklin Park, Harvard’s Memorial Church, the Harvard Art Museums, the Old State House, the Fenway nightclub Machine, Harrison Avenue, and Malcolm X Boulevard.”
This Is Who I Am by Amir Nizar Zuabi. Directed by Evren Odcikin. Presented by PlayCo and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, in Association with American Repertory Theater, Guthrie Theater, and Oregon Shakespeare Festival. A virtual event, streaming through January 3. 2021. This event is ticketed through Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. Arts Fuse review
World premiere of a script that “explores the unpredictable nature of grief and the delicacy of family connection across geographical and generational divides.” The production will be broadcast live for each performance. “Two actors perform a balancing act of care and resentment, closeness and vast separation, as they cook in real time over video chat. Separated by continents, an estranged father and son reunite over Zoom. From their respective kitchens in Ramallah and New York City, they recreate a cherished family recipe and struggle to bridge the gap between them, one ingredient at a time.” The cast includes Ramsey Faragallah (Dad) and Yousof Sultani (Son).
Jack and the Beanstalk: A Musical Adventure, by Julia Riew and Ian Chan. Directed by Rebecca Aparicio. Presented by the American Repertory Theater, through January 4, 2021. Household tickets for $20 with a pay-what-you-can option for the streaming production.
“The annual family holiday show goes virtual this Thanksgiving with a new, 45-minute Zoom musical that takes us on an epic journey through Storyland. The vivid imaginations of Harvard undergraduates Julia Riew and Ian Chan (the creators of last season’s Thumbelina) transform this classic fairy tale into a contemporary celebration of the power of kindness, courage, determination and creativity to overcome life’s obstacles.”
Living Newspaper Online produced by the Royal Court Theatre, Edition One
I suggested this as a project for Boston theaters in a column two months ago. Alas, none of our companies dared take their cue from America’s Federal Theater Project. But the Royal Court Theatre in London is taking up the challenge. Its online “living newspaper” — presented via weekly installments — will be “urgent, responsive and fast – with writers filing their pieces by Tuesday and actors performing from Thursday, script-in-hand, hot off the press.”
Williamstown Theatre Festival on Audible, season begins on December 3.
“In an innovative collaboration devised to meet the challenges posed by the global health pandemic, the 2020 season will be the first-ever complete theatre season released by Audible, the leading creator and provider of premium audio storytelling. The WTF Season on Audible is being produced in an audio-only format safe to elevate, entertain, and transform audiences from the comfort of their homes.” Here is what is currently up and ready for earplay.
A Streetcar Named Desire: “Following his 2019 production of A Raisin in the Sun, Tony Award nominee Robert O’Hara returns to WTF to direct this Tennessee Williams masterpiece. With Emmy, Grammy, and six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald as Blanche DuBois alongside Carla Gugino as Stella. Haunted by her past, Blanche seeks refuge with Stella and Stanley (Ariel Shafir) in New Orleans, where she wrestles with the nature of her sister’s husband, her sister’s denial, and her own unraveling mind.
Photograph 51: “In 1951, chemist Rosalind Franklin (Anna Chlumsky) works relentlessly in her King’s College London lab, closing in on a major discovery that could unlock the mysteries of the DNA molecule. Undermined by her colleague Maurice Wilkins (Omar Metwally), she struggles to compete with rival team Watson and Crick (David Corenswet and Aasif Mandvi) as pressure intensifies to produce results. The script is by Anna Ziegler; Susan Stroman directs.
Animals by Stacy Osei-Kuffour. Directed by Obie Award winner Whitney White, premiering on December 17 at 3 a.m. ET: “Lydia (Aja Naomi King) and Henry (Jason Butler Harner)’s dinner guests (Madeline Brewer and William Jackson Harper) are about to arrive when Henry’s spontaneous marriage proposal threatens to burn the evening to a crisp. Wine bottles and years of unspoken tensions are uncorked, and, before the evening is through, Lydia must confront her long-held fears and feelings if she’s going to commit to a future with Henry. World premiere of a comedy that marches into the muddy intersection of romantic entanglement, identity, pride, and survival.”
Chonburi International Hotel & Butterfly Club by Shakina Nayfack. Directed by Laura Savia. The world premiere of a play that centers on a vibrant, international group of transgender women who band together at a hotel in Thailand to confront the challenges and joys of gender confirmation surgery. Despite the group’s warm welcome, Kina (Nayfack) prepares for her life-altering operation all alone. But a caring nurse (Ivory Aquino), a wise couple (Kate Bornstein and Annie Golden), and a karaoke-loving bellhop (Telly Leung) may be exactly who she needs to ignite her truest sense of self.”
The Christmas Revels 2020, A 50th Anniversary Virtual Celebration, Directed by Patrick Swanson; George Emlen, music director. through 31. Video on Demand.
The venerable celebration returns online — with special guest Yo-Yo Ma. “For the first time in 50 years, the annual Christmas Revels will not be celebrated live in Harvard’s historic Sanders Theatre. The shortest day will come, and the year will die – but as Revels fans across country know, that is never the end of the story!
For this extraordinary year we are creating a unique, virtual Revels – a cornucopia of music, dance, song, and ritual from our richly recorded archives, spanning half a century and half the globe.
This December, a small band of performers will walk into an empty theater to fulfill the promise of …. “people singing, to keep the year alive,” as stipulated in Susan Cooper’s poem, “The Shortest Day.” They will be joined by two stalwart audience members who have been present since the first Christmas Revels in 1971: the marble statues of James Otis (Paula Plum) and Josiah Quincy (Richard Snee). James and Josiah remember every song, every dance, and every “Welcome Yule!” Arts Fuse review
The African Company Presents Richard III by Carlyle Brown. Directed by Carl Cofield. A livestream (free but donations welcome) presented by Red Bull Theater on January 11 at 7:30 p.m. EST. This is a Live Event. The cast will come together to present the play LIVE from their homes — anything can happen. A recording of the January 11 broadcast will be available until 7 p.m. EST on January 15 – then it disappears.
Holiday Sauce… Pandemic! Created by Taylor Mac and his longtime collaborators, designer Machine Dazzle, musicdDirector Matt Ray, and producers Pomegranate Arts. Tickets are pay-what-you-can. The video recording will be viewable until January 2, 2021.
“Holiday Sauce… Pandemic! will blend music, film, burlesque, and random acts of fabulousness to reframe the songs you love and the holidays you hate. There is more to the holidays than rampant capitalism and gift-giving, and in Taylor’s world, creativity and imagination are their own spirituality. This holiday season will be bittersweet for so many — Taylor Mac reminds us of the collective power of our chosen families, a message that will be of particular resonance this year when so many have lost so much.”
— Bill Marx
The COVID-19 pandemic still hangs heavy over the art world. As cases in the region rise, several New England art museums have chosen to retreat and close to the public again this holiday season. Among these are Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and, further to the north, the Portland Museum of Art. Virtually all the others are on some form of reduced hours or capacity and many require advanced reservations prior to a visit. Be sure to check the museum’s website before setting out. On the bright side, even at the museums closed to physical visitors, the range of imaginative online events, from holiday celebrations to art workshops to virtual gallery talks, means there will be plenty of art to see through the 2020 holiday season.
At the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, among the museums still open to the public, there’s the exhibition Zarah Hussein: Breath. The British artist created the paintings in the show (part of a PEM commission) in London while the city was under a COVID-19 lockdown. Her work reflects on the nature of breath, especially as a tool for transformation and awakening. The exhibition includes an animation and soundscape designed, like meditation, to make visitors aware of the deeper physical and spiritual connections of breathing.
Brockton’s Fuller Museum of Crafts features Particle & Wave: PaperClay Illuminated. The international exhibition of 45 artists explores “paper clay,” also known as “fiber clay,” a type of ceramic formed from clay to which cellulose fiber has been added. As explored by cutting edge ceramic arts, the material can shape new, startling ceramic forms with startling detail. The show is designed to show the potential of these new techniques to redefine what is possible in clay.
Several museums across the region are combining in-house holiday celebrations with virtual ones. The Worcester Art Museum’s Deck the Halls! Celebration continues through January 3. The holiday display features trees with decorations inspired by the museum’s permanent collections and by the city’s part and present, among them a “Worcester Heroes Tree” with ornaments created by the TEC School and Worcester Head Start students.
The Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, NH, has a number of physical exhibitions on view, including The Artists of Black Lives Manchester, organized in collaboration with Black Lives Manchester and featuring New Hampshire artists. The show will remain on view through the winter months.
The Currier’s annual Noon Year’s Eve celebrations will be virtual this year. The online offerings will include exhibition tours and performances from magician BJ Hickman and Lindsay and her Puppet Pals. To keep the festivities as real as possible, the museum will even provide art kits that include materials for making a “pixilation-inspired” collage, party hats, a festive mask, and bubble wrap fireworks. The fun starts at noon on December 31; tickets available through the Currier website. Art kits can be picked up at the museum’s lobby between 11 am and 3 pm on December 30.
— Peter Walsh
Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do Is Healthy and Rewarding
January 5 at 7 p.m.
Free with $3 suggested donation
“Exercised is entertaining and enlightening but also constructive. As our increasingly sedentary lifestyles have contributed to skyrocketing rates of obesity and diseases such as diabetes, Lieberman audaciously argues that to become more active we need to do more than medicalize and commodify exercise.
Drawing on insights from evolutionary biology and anthropology, Lieberman suggests how we can make exercise more enjoyable, rather than shaming and blaming people for avoiding it. He also tackles the question of whether you can exercise too much, even as he explains why exercise can reduce our vulnerability to the diseases mostly likely to make us sick and kill us.”
Megan Alpert & Jose Angel Araguz
An Empty Pot’s Darkness & The Animal at Your Side
January 7 at 7 p.m.
Free with $3 suggested donation
“Jose Angel Araguz’s fourth full-length poetry collection takes readers through a series of poetic sequences that engage with ideas of life, love, death, and friendship. Whether holding elegiac conversations with writers known personally or known only through reading; braiding the folklore of La Llorona with the narrative of a past relationship; or exploring concepts of mortality, these poems explore the nuances and depths of life eight lines at a time.
The narrators in The Animal at Your Side scavenge for clues, trying to stitch together a life in the midst of unrootedness. Finding bones, talismans, and half-heard voices that portal back to both personal and collective history, the speakers are haunted by diaspora, family estrangement, intergenerational trauma, and resilience. What are the costs of being far away from a homeplace?”
Alden Jones & Sven Birkerts
The Wanting Was A Wilderness & Nabokov’s Speak, Memory
January 7 at 7 p.m.
Free with suggested contribution of $5
“Alden Jones intended to write a reckoning with a contemporary literary classic — but she has written far more than that. To carefully dissect Wild, she finds she must consider her own quests: her own time in the wild; her self-discoveries as a queer woman; and how she can both live and tell an authentic story. This is a beautiful, lyric, unexpected book about the power of memoir and how desire both leads us into the wilderness and makes for us a map.
Nabokov’s Speak, Memory is one of the most critically acclaimed memoirs of the 20th Century. In this classic account of his life, Nabokov writes about his idyllic Russian childhood in a aristocratic family, the 1917 revolution that exiled him from Russia, and the path that would eventually lead him to live in America. Celebrated author Sven Birkerts explores how the book connects with exile, serendipity, childhood, literary redemption, and memory.
The Listening Path: The Creative Art of Attention
January 12 at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $45- $18, including hardcover or paperback copy of book
“The Listening Path is a transformational journey to deeper, more profound listening and creativity. Over six weeks, readers will be given the tools to become better listeners– to their environment, the people around them, and themselves. The reward for listening to truly listen is immense. As we learn to listen, our attention is heightened and we gain healing, insight, clarity. But above all, listening creates connections and ignites a creativity that will resonate through every aspect of our lives.”
Perestroika in Paris: A Novel
January 13 at 7 p.m.
Free with $3 contribution
“Paras, short for ‘Perestroika,’ is a spirited racehorse at a racetrack west of Paris. One afternoon at dusk, she finds the door of her stall open and — she’s a cautious filly — wanders all the way to the City of Light. She’s dazzled and often mystified by the sights, sounds, and smells around her, but she isn’t afraid. Soon she meets an elegant dog, a German shorthaired pointer named Frida, who knows how to get by without attracting the attention of suspicious Parisians.
Paras and Frida coexist for a time in the city’s lush green spaces, nourished by Frida’s strategic trips to the vegetable market. They keep company with two irrepressible ducks and an opinionated raven. But then Pras meets a human boy, Etienne, and discovers a new, otherworldly part of Paris: the ivy-walled house where the boy and his nearly-one-hundred-year-old great-grandmother live in seclusion.”
— Matt Hanson