Coming Attractions: December 12 Through 28– What Will Light Your Fire
Compiled by Bill Marx
As the age of Covid-19 wanes (or waxes?), Arts Fuse critics supply a guide to film, dance, visual art, theater, and music. Please check with venues about whether the event is available by streaming or is in person. More offerings will be added as they come in.
Coolidge Corner Theater
Naughty nuns in a 17th-century convent get the Paul Verhoeven treatment in this dark and bawdy blend of eroticism, comedy, drama, and horror. (Fuse Review)
Coolidge Corner Theater & Loews
Director Guillermo del Toro tries his hand at film noir: he is revisiting a 1947 movie based on the eponymous novel by William Lindsay Gresham. In the earlier effort, Tyrone Power starred as the protagonist, an ambitious carny hustler and clairvoyant. This time around the cast features Rooney Mara, Bradley Cooper, and Kate Blanchett.
The Lost Daughter
Kendall Square Theater
Maggie Gyllenhaal has adapted Elena Ferrante’s 2006 novel for her first directorial effort. Olivia Coleman gives a beautifully nuanced performance as a flawed and disturbed mother. Read the screenplay here.
Coolidge Corner Theater
Sean Baker continues to profile life in the underbelly of America. A hyperactive Simon Rex plays a charismatic and grating porn star hustler who decides to return to his home town, his ex-lover, and her mother. (Fuse review)
Kendall Square Theater
Ben Affleck stars as a bar owner mentoring his nephew, who dreams of becoming a writer. The film was shot in and around the Boston area. Directed by George Clooney.
Don’t Look Up
Coolidge Corner Theater and AMC Boston Common 19
Adam McKay (Vice, The Big Short) delivers another darkly comic social satire featuring a star-studded cast and the end of the world.
Kendall Square Theater & Coolidge Corner
Director Paul Thomas Anderson’s rambling coming-of-age love story is set in ’70s L.A. It features the Boston Society of Film Critics choice for Best Actress, Alana Haim. (Fuse Review)
Also Reviewed on The Arts Fuse and Currently Playing
— Tim Jackson
COVID PROTOCOLS: Check with specific theaters: requirements often include proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 rapid test. Also, companies are requiring masks at indoor performances.
The Alchemist by Ben Jonson. Adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher. Directed by Jesse Berger. Staged by Red Bull Theater at New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street, New York, through December 19.
Jonsonians rejoice! A chance to see (an adaptation of) the 1610 script, first performed by the King’s Men, that Samuel Taylor Coleridge considered to have one of the three most perfect plots in literature. Has anything changed? Bullies of all description still fleece each other during plague time. “When a wealthy gentleman flees to the country, his trusted servant opens his house to a pair of con artists who set up an animated den of criminal capitalism. Claiming alchemical powers, the quick-witted trio fleece an onslaught of greedy sheep with their miraculous ability to improvise amidst increasingly frantic comings and goings. It’s comic gold with dupes, double-dupes, duels, disguises, and a lucky flea named ‘Lewis.'”
I hope Hatcher didn’t get rid of one of Jonson’s great jokes. Lovewit, panicked member of the upper-middle class, returns home to London once he believes it is safe, but he is wary. (He has kept his distance “While there dies one, a week, / O’ the plague.” Some claimed that corrupted human breath could transmit the disease, which explains Lovewit’s nervous instructions to a servant (who insists he has not been ill) to “Breathe less, and further off.” Jonson knew that the audience members at the show, hearing that line, would look nervously at those seated around them. The plague was not entirely gone in 1610.
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. Directed by Danielle Fauteux Jacques. Staged by the Apollinaire Theatre Company at the Chelsea Theatre Works 189 Winnisimmet Street, Chelsea, MA, through December 19.
A revival of an Apollinaire Theatre Company production of Wilde’s comedy. That new version contains four of the eight original actors “taking over all the roles!”
The Rise and Fall of Holly Fudge by Trista Baldwin. Directed by Courtney Sale. Staged by the Merrimack Repertory Theatre at Liberty Hall, 50 East Merrimack Street, Lowell, MA, through December 19. Video on Demand: December 16-26
The world premiere of a very relevant holiday comedy (which takes place during the pandemic!) commissioned by Merrimack Rep. “Christmas 2020. Carol is a hard-working single mother who makes award-winning “Holly” fudge, named after her daughter. She serves it every holiday. She gifts it to her friends and co-workers. She’s determined that this year won’t be any different, even if she has to wear a mask while whipping up her famous dessert. But with her daughter Holly’s girlfriend crashing Christmas, her neighbor’s newfound love of confectionery, and the protests erupting on her front lawn, Carol is finding it tough to make this the most wonderful time of year.”
Witness by Nana Grinstein with Blair Cadden & Igor Golyak. Conceived and directed by Igor Golyak . Scenography & Costume Design by Anna Fedorova. Produced by Sara Stackhouse Featuring the Arlekin Acting Company. Staged by Arlekin Players Theatre and Zero Gravity (zero-G) Virtual Theater Lab, a live virtual offering that will include a post-show talkback with members of the cast and creative team, through January 23, 2022.
The world premiere of “a new documentary theater piece about Jewish immigration in the face of antisemitism.” The play “brings actors and audience together from around the world for a shared immersive experience set on a boat in digital space. The piece is inspired by the journey of the MS St. Louis, which left Hamburg in 1939 with over 900 Jewish people on board and headed to Cuba only to be turned away, leaving the passengers stranded with nowhere to go and no escape.” The play “shares stories of Jewish immigrants from around the globe through an interactive virtual theater experience at the nexus of film, theater and video games.”
Teenage Dick by Mike Lew. Directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel. Staged by the Huntington Theatre Company at the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA, Boston, through January 2, 2022 (with digital access to the filmed performance through January 16, 2022). The production is produced in association with Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company (Washington, DC) and Pasadena Playhouse (Pasadena, CA). The play originated at Ma-Yi Theatre Company in association with The Public Theater (both in New York).
This adaption of Shakespeare Richard III “centers on a high school outsider named Richard. Bullied because of his cerebral palsy, Richard decides to exact revenge on his class enemies by becoming the senior class president. But all the scheming, manipulation, and revenge plots force him to ask the age-old question: is it better to be loved or feared?”
WILD: A Musical Becoming. Book by V (formerly Eve Ensler); music by Justin Tranter and songwriter Caroline Pennell with contributions by Eren Cannata and lyrics by Tranter, Pennell, and V. Also, contributions by Idina Menzel. Directed by Diane Paulus. Staged by the American Repertory Theater at the Loeb Drama Center, Cambridge, through January 2, 2022.
“A new musical fable about a single mother struggling to hold on to her family farm and connect with her teenage daughter, whose determination to save the planet endows her and her friends with powers they never knew they had. Inspired by the show’s theme of caring for the planet, this concert production embraces regenerative practice and invites audiences to use their imagination to set the scene.”
The Half-Life of Marie Curie by Lauren Gunderson. Directed by Bryn Boice. Produced by The Nora@Central Square Theater (A Catalyst Collaborative@MIT Production) at Central Square Theater, Cambridge, online digital stream through December 26.
The plot: “Summer, 1912. Two-time Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie takes refuge with her friend Hertha Aryton, renowned mechanical engineer, after the outing of Marie’s scandalous affair with the married Paul Langevin.” This two-hander dramatizes their “deep friendship, their struggles with double standards, the danger of discoveries, and their passion for science and family.” Considerable theatrical radiance will no doubt be supplied by the casting of vets Lee Mikeska Gardner and Underground Railway’s Debra Wise. Arts Fuse review
The Tempest by William Shakespeare. Directed by Jessica Ernst. Staged by Queen Mab at the Multicultural Arts Center, 41 Second Street, Cambridge,
“An innovative ‘micro-theatre’ adaptation, The Tempest features three actors playing 11 roles and incorporates both Shakespeare’s original text and sign language. This collaboration between hearing and Deaf theater artists explores the power of language to create or destroy, liberate or oppress against a backdrop of magic, betrayal, and forgiveness. As Prospero rules his isle and plots revenge upon his usurping brother, each character navigates their own path towards a freedom rooted in love and vulnerability rather than fear and control.”
The Christmas Revels: In Celebration of the Winter Solstice. Directed by Patrick Swanson. George Emlen is Music Director. Dramaturg is Benny Sato Ambush. At Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre, Cambridge, December 17 through 29 (Live Performances). Virtual edition available December 30 through January 9 only.
“The 51st annual Christmas Revels takes place in present day England, at the George and Dragon, a 17th-century English pub famous for its annual Christmas carol party and saved from economic extinction by an American couple. Sadly for the carolers, last year’s celebration had to be canceled due to the pandemic. The regulars are looking forward to reestablishing the traditional sing-along but the hiccup in tradition has disturbed the space/time continuum and triggered an audit by a fussy Revels bureaucrat from the 17th century. Along with his Elizabethan entourage he will be making an official visit to the 21st century to put things back in order.”
“The cast includes musician and longtime Christmas Revels song leader David Coffin, actors William Forchion and Regie Gibson, Happenstance Theater’s Mark Jaster and Sabrina Selma Mandell, Revels favorites Paula Plum and Richard Snee, and vocalist extraordinaire Carolyn Saxon.”
— Bill Marx
The Figgs’ September 2019 release of their triple-LP Shady Grove permitted the Albany/Boston trio to begin a subsequent tour but–for obvious reasons–not to finish it. The trio is currently at work on their next album, which they hope to unveil in 2022. In the meantime, Graham Parker’s former touring band are in the midst of a five-night run of shows that will wrap up in Somerville after three nights in New York (upstate and City) and one in Providence.
The latter half of 2021 hasn’t been too bad for Boston-based blues trio GA-20. Their album GA-20 Does Hound Dog Taylor: Try It…You Might Like It! was released in August, elicited praise from publications in the US, UK, and Australia, topped the Billboard Blues Albums chart, and helped make GA-20 the winners of this year’s Boston Music Award for Blues Artist of the Year. The band did eight November gigs in California, Oregon, Washington, and Alberta and have mid-December shows lined-up in Pawtucket, Allston, and Bridgeport. They will then head south a week into the new year and wrap things up in Atlanta at the end of January. Guitarist Matt Stubbs, guitarist/vocalist Pat Faherty, and drummer Tim Carman will be joined by Brooklyn quartet The National Reserve and Tyler-James Kelly of fellow BMA Blues Artist winners The Silks at Brighton Music Hall on Friday.
According to his website, “Dwayne Haggins grew up in many places, but when he talks of ‘home’ these days, he means Framingham, Massachusetts.” Old-school Boston music critic and Arts Fuse contributor Ed Symkus has praised Haggins’s ability to interpret everyone from Carl Perkins to Stevie Wonder and for the singer-songwriter’s own balladry and honky-tonk stylings. Others have noted elements of Hank Williams, Otis Redding, John Legend, Elvis Presley, and Marvin Gaye. Haggins will draw from his two LP’s worth of material and likely throw in a few exquisitely chosen covers at The Porch on the eve of Christmas Eve. (And he will be at Revolution Hall in Lexington on December 22 and Sumiao Hunan Kitchen in Cambridge on December 24.)
— Blake Maddux
Gumdrops & The Funny Uncle
December 17 at 7 p.m.
Peter DiMuro/Public Displays of Motion returns with this annual Nutcracker alternative. This festive production delves into DiMuro’s experiences playing the Uncle in Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker, along with stories of his sister’s struggles to adopt her daughter in the face of Mexican/US political red tape. In both stories DiMuro emerges as a different kind of “Funny Uncle.” Note to viewers: Masks are required, as well as proof of vaccination.
Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker
Now through December 26
Citizens Bank Opera House
Those seeking a more traditional, yet riveting, rendition of The Nutcracker should look no further than Boston Ballet’s classic production. Enjoy splendorous sets, costumes, and exceptional technique as the timeless music of Tchaikovsky fills the Citizens Bank Opera House.
Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre
This year’s Christmas Revels returns to live performances with a twist, merging modern-day street-wise locals with Elizabethan carolers through a fanciful disturbance in the space/time continuum. Enjoy a medley of music, dance, and revelry bridging the Renaissance and 21st century in honor of the Winter Solstice.
December 18 at 6pm & December 19 at 2 p.m.
33 Hawley Street
The School For Contemporary Dance & Thought (SCDT) presents new works by The Hatchery Company and guest choreographers Lauren Horn and Vanessa Anspaugh. TIMELESS strives to celebrate through movement the challenges faced by young artists during these times of “struggle, change, and growth in our world.”
Boch Center Shubert Theatre
Those in search of a Nutcracker production that stands out among the rest should head to Anthony Williams’s Urban Nutcracker, the modern Boston-centric holiday classic presented by City Ballet of Boston. This year celebrates the production’s 20th anniversary, returning to the stage after last year’s virtual offering. Experience what the Boston Globe has aptly described as “a holiday arts tradition reflecting the rich multicultural diversity of Boston.”
— Merli V. Guerra
Although the Museum of Fine Art’s holdings in Ancient Greek and Roman art rank with the greatest and most complete to be found in any museum, their public galleries have long suggested an outlying MBTA subway station: dark, outdated, poorly explained, and dingy. For decades, these galleries have waited for attention while other areas in the museum — displaying Egyptian, Asian, African, Ancient American, Impressionist, or contemporary art — got lavish makeovers.
At long last, on December 18, the museum will unveil its new galleries: Art of Ancient Greece, Rome, and the Byzantine Empire. On an upper level of the MFA’s George D. And Margo Behrakis Wing, five new galleries will now introduce the traditional foundations of Western visual art, reconsidered in light of the latest scholarship in classical studies. The galleries take visitors through a series of themes and experiences: Greek art from the end of the 10th century BCE through the Persian Wars of 479 BCE. It is a stretch of centuries revered for imaging new ways of representing the human body and for the start of rich traditions of storytelling. The Geometric and Archaic Periods are explored as the precursors to the so-called Classical Period. Topics include “Daily Life in Ancient Greece,” “Homer and the Epics,” “Dionysus and the Symposium,” “Theater and Entertainment,” and “Ancient Coins,” an exploration of an ancient medium of exchange which is also a rich and accomplished art form.
“Gods and Goddesses” includes representations of the deities and religious practices of the ancient Greeks and Romans. “Roman Portraiture” explores new ideas of representing individuals as they appeared in life, to memorialize not only their likeness but also their character and standing in the complex hierarchies of Roman society. Portraits were used in public propaganda, domestic devotions, and graves and tombs.
A final gallery, a new addition to the MFA’s ancient chronology, is devoted to the art of the Byzantine Empire — cultural and political heir to both to the Roman Empire and the Greek city-sates — from the 4th century CE through the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453, an event that marked the final collapse of both the Roman Empire and the classical tradition. This gallery creates, the museum says, an “immersive experience” with its golden dome, monumental altarpiece, and a recorded soundtrack of Byzantine hymns.
The burgeoning Venezuelan art scene of the mid-20th century is the background to Gego: A Drawing in Space, an online Art Talk Live at the Harvard Art Museums on December 14, 12:30 – 1 p.m. Curator Mary Schneider Enriquez will explore the work of Gego (Gertrude Goldschmidt), focusing on her 1985 piece, “Drawing Without Paper, 85/1,” which has recently been acquired by the museum. The talk will take place online via Zoom, free and open to all, but registration is required through the museum’s website.
On December 16 from 7 to 8 p.m., the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem will present Create Night, a virtual art class with Meg Nichols of m. ink Creative Studio, who will guide participants (adults recommended) through the process of making a piece of hand-lettered wall art. Nichols is a hand-lettering artist, designer, and muralist who has studied photography, printmaking, and traditional sign painting. Registration is $10 for members and $20 for nonmembers, and includes a kit with the tools necessary to complete the project. Register at the museum website.
The Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum of Art in Hartford concludes its Festival of Trees & Traditions on December 12 from 12 to 5 p.m. The popular annual holiday event features trees and wreaths decorated by community members, artists, and local organizations. All are for sale to benefit the museums’ special exhibitions, educational programs, and operating costs. Sunday’s program includes seasonal choirs and music. An additional $5 fundraising charge is added to regular admissions fees for the day.
The December 16 edition of the Currier Museum of Art’s Art After Work: Free Thursday Nights (5-8 p.m.) includes music in the Winter Garden by Charlie Chronopoulos and half-hour exhibition tours at 5:30 p.m. (“Collection Spotlight on Symbolism”) and 6:30 p.m. (the exhibition As Precious as Gold: Carpets from the Islamic World. ) Happy hour drink specials and a full menu for dinner or after-work snacks are also available. The “Art After Work” series continues on Thursday evenings through the end of the year.
— Peter Walsh
Porch Bolt + Trio Double Double
December 14 at 7:30 p.m.
Drummer Eric Rosenthal presents this special extravaganza for his .01 Percent series of avant-jazz: the band Porch Bolt (Rosenthal with Jorrit Dijkstra on sax and lyricon, trumpeter Greg Kelley, and guitarist Eric Hofbauer) and Trio Double Double, which Rosenthal describes as “the heavyweight champion vs. all the rhythm section we could fit in the club”: pianist Pandelis Karayorgis; bassists Nathan McBride, Jeff Charland, and Caleb Duval; and drummers Rosenthal and Luther Gray.
Aardvark Jazz Orchestra
December 15 at 7 p.m.
Live Zoom Event
Live performance is creeping back, but caution is still the byword for many of us, so this archive performance (plus discussion) from the revered Aardvark Jazz Orchestra is a special seasonal gift. Technically the band’s 49th annual Christmas concert, this Zoom event will stream the band’s 2013 performance of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite,” a piece especially prized by Ellington/Strayhorn aficionados — and a few Tchaikovsky fans as well. Writer Fred Bouchard will interview Aardvark musical director Mark Harvey about the Ellington/Strayhorn score as well as Aardvark’s Christmas concert tradition. Following the presentation of the live concert audio with accompanying Nutcracker-themed visuals, Bouchard and Harvey will take questions from the Zoom audience.
Jason Palmer Quintet
December 16 at 8 p.m.
In case you missed this show from last week, the Celebrity Series of Boston is presenting it as a virtual performance from YouTube on-demand, beginning at 8 p.m. and available for three months. Trumpeter and composer Jason Palmer leads a superb quintet, with tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger, pianist Kevin Harris, bassist Max Ridley, and drummer Lee Fish. The theme is “holiday favorites, inspired by Ellington and Jones” (Duke and Thad, that is).
December 17 at 8 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston
John Pizzarelli’s key mentor as a guitarist was his father, the great swing master Bucky Pizzarelli, but the template for his band was set by the Nat “King” Cole Trio: vocal, guitar, piano, bass. And he’s pretty much stuck with that intimate format throughout his career. His repertoire has mined the Great American Songbook to good effect, with additions from contemporaries like Paul McCartney, Joni Mitchell, and Tom Waits. Hey, the “kid” (now 61) is good (he gets a pass for the Foxwoods Casino TV ad). We haven’t seen Pizzarelli’s return to the stage since COVID, but it should be poignant: he lost both his parents to the disease in 2020.
“Nat King Cole Christmas”
December 18 at 8 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston
Speaking of Nat “King” Cole (see John Pizzarelli, December 17), Scullers has put together this tribute to the great jazz pianist and pop vocal star under the musical direction of drummer and bandleader Terri Lyne Carrington. Aside from the involvement of the rightly esteemed Carrington, this looks like a promising lineup “showcasing the impact of Cole’s seminal musical talents”: singers Jean Baylor (the Baylor Project) and Michael Mayo, pianist Christian Sands, bassist Russell Hall, guitarist Dan Wilson, trumpeter Tanya Darby, trombonist Steve Davis, and saxophonist Veronica Leahy.
Charlie Kohlhase’s Explorers Club
December 19 at 6:30 p.m.
Lilypad, Cambridge, Mass.
Multi-reedman, composer, and bandleader Charlie Kohlhase emerges from COVID hibernation to lead his invaluable troupe of progressive jazz Explorers. This edition includes tenor saxophonist Seth Meicht, Daniel Rosenthal on trumpet and flugelhorn, trombonist Jeb Bishop, tubist Josiah Reibstein, bassist Tony Leva, and drummer Curt Newton.
December 28 at 7:30 p.m.
The wonderful bassist and bandleader Bruce Gertz leads a terrific band of post-bop adepts: saxophonist George Garzone (The Fringe), trumpeter Phil Grenadier (Jerry Bergonzi), and drummer Luther Gray (The Fringe, Bergonzi).
— Jon Garelick
Kids’ Story Hour: Boston Edition | Porter Square Books
December 15 at 10 a.m.
“Our new Boston store is excited to announce our first ever Kids’ Story Hour! Beloved storyteller, Doria Hughes, will be in our Boston store on December 15th to read to the community. Children of all ages welcome, no RSVP required!”
Poetry Open Mic Night | Trident Booksellers & Cafe
December 19 at 7 p.m.
“Join us for a fun evening of open mic poetry! We invite you to bring your own works and perform them in front of a supportive crowd. There’s no better place to find your voice and share it with the world! The sign-up list opens at 6:30 pm in the upstairs cafe and the mic opens at 7 p.m..
“Seating is first come, first served! Each open mic slot gets you about three minutes of stage time. No need to memorize your work — just be comfortable and have fun! If you read someone else’s work, give credit where due.
Above all, show kindness to all. No hate speech, slurs, or sexually explicit language.”
Comedy Night: How Bout Booksmith? | brookline booksmith
December 23 at 7 p.m.
A series of local comedic talent comes to Brookline Booksmith to keep the bookishly inclined in stitches. Rollin Atkinson hosts, with appearances by Kindra Lansburg, Angela Sawyer, Thom Crowley, A.J. Bell, Josh Mandl, headlined by Chase Abel.
Skip the Small Talk at Trident Books: LGBTQIA Speed-Friending | Trident Booksellers & Cafe
December 29 from 7 to 8:45 p.m.
“Do you wish you could have more of the kinds of conversations you have late at night where for some reason, you feel safe talking about the things you actually care about? Bring your friends (or come by yourself) and spend your Thursday night at an event where you know everyone else is there for the same reason.
“We’ll be offering ‘big talk’ conversation prompts to get you started, and we’ll have lots of structure to make sure that you actually talk to people and that it’s not awkward. Not feeling like answering a particular question? No worries, we’ll have plenty to choose from, like, ‘When are you the happiest?’ and, ‘If you were going to become close friends with me, what would I need to know about you?’ We’ll give you ground rules to make sure you feel comfortable and safe sharing as much of yourself as possible while still feeling in complete control of how much you divulge.
“There will be food and drinks for sale! Check-in for this event will begin around 6:45 p.m. Please do your best to arrive before 7 p.m. so we can begin as close to on time as possible.”
— Matt Hanson