As the age of Covid-19 more or less wanes, Arts Fuse critics supply a guide to film, dance, visual art, theater, author readings, and music. More offerings will be added as they come in.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline
Kendall Square Theater in Cambridge
As might be expected, del Toro has fashioned a dark version of the classic story, drawing on stop motion animation as well as music by Nick Cave and Alexandre Desplat. Among the striking twists: a rickety looking Pinocchio and narration supplied by Sebastian J. Cricket (Ewan McGregor). This is no cheery Jiminy but a bug-eyed, multilegged insect who lives in the heart of the puppet. There is even a cameo by a dwarf-sized Mussolini. You may want to avoid bringing younger children to this version — it will most likely induce nightmares. Lots of fun, however, for the older folk.
Marilyn Beyond Blonde
November 22 – 24 and November 29 – December 1
Brattle Theatre in Cambridge
Earlier this year, director Andrew Dominik’s expressionistic version of Marilyn Monroe’s life, Blonde, based on the novel by Joyce Carol Oates, focused on the tragedies and abuses in the actress’s life. The Brattle’s homage balances that chilly version of Monroe’s story with a look at her performances. The six films in the series demonstrate Monroe’s remarkable skill as a comedienne and dramatic actor. If you have never these movies on the big screen, here is a valuable opportunity.
The Silent Forest
Coolidge Corner Theatre
December 4 at 11 a.m.
The Goethe-Institut Boston presents new films from Germany (rarely shown outside Europe) that highlight emerging directors. This is an entry in its “Spotlight on Women” series. “Forestry student Anja Grimm finds herself in the same remote forest where she vacationed with her parents as a child when her father disappeared without a trace. Shortly after her arrival, a brutal murder takes place.”
Pick of the Week
¡Viva Maestro! (2022)
Still in theaters — Todd Field’s, Tár, co-produced by and starring Cate Blanchett in a tour-de-force performance as a world-renowned orchestra conductor whose hubris and exploitative behavior slowly unravels her reputation. An uplifting companion to that film, also about an intersection of music and politics, is ¡Viva Maestro! by Vermont native Ted Braun.
The subject is Gustavo Dudamel, the charismatic Venezuelan conductor whose international tours were disrupted in 2017 by deadly protests across his native country. “Dudamel leaves Venezuela, and the orchestra’s tour is canceled, leaving the young members to join millions of protesters in the streets of Venezuela. But Dudamel continues to fight for his musicians to be able to perform, organizing international concerts as a way to keep his acolytes focused on a positive vision of the future.”(NY Times) A Q&A with Braun and Dudamel is available on YouTube.
— Tim Jackson
November 25 from 10 a.m. -5:30 p.m.
Arts at the Armory
Head to the Armory in Somerville to enjoy a full day of new music, dance, and “other thangs.” Guests are invited to come and go as they please, as a myriad of performing artists fills the hall with movement and sound. This is a free public event.
Water to Ashes
November 30 at 11:59 p.m.
KAIROS Dance Theater premieres Water to Ashes, a site-specific performance in response to SPOKE/Medicine Wheel’s 31st annual Day Without Art installation, honoring World AIDS Day 2022. The performance features seven dancers set to Danzas Latinoamericanas, composed by José Elizondo and played live by cellist Sam Ou. The piece is performed inside Michael Dowling’s visual art installation, transforming the Boston Center for the Arts’ Cyclorama into a space of reverence.
A Newport Nutcracker at Rosecliff
November 23-December 2
Described by the Boston Globe as “Brimming with the enchantment and good cheer of the season,” Island Moving Company’s annual production of A Newport Nutcracker at Rosecliff returns to Newport’s most iconic mansion. Journey through the rooms of this historic 19th-century landmark, transformed into a glittering Victorian Era holiday party and snowy dreamscape.
Refract/Reframe: Reflections on Loss, Love and Light
The Click’s first live performance features works exploring the joys and setbacks of the past few years. Join choreographers Leah Misano Abbott, Angelina Benitez, Lonnie Stanton, Decent Dance, and Kristin Wagner as they explore themes of togetherness, strength, emotional cracking, and prismatic light.
December 3 at 6 p.m.
Now in its 19th year, the annual Boston Bhangra Competition brings the best bhangra teams from across North America to the Boston stage — each vying to be crowned the Boston Bhangra Champion. This year’s event features a guest performance by Bhangra superstar G Sidhu.
— Merli V. Guerra
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 Chinese Lady by Lloyd Suh. Directed by Sarah Shin. Presented by the Central Square Theater, 450 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, through December 11.
“1834. A 14-year-old Afong Moy brought to New York Harbor from Guangdong Province. Immediately, she is put on display for the American public as ‘The Chinese Lady.’ For the next half century, believing herself an ambassador to life in her native China, she performs under the gaze of curious white people. Lloyd Suh’s poetic and subversively comedic tale offers a portrait of the United States, giving voice to our country’s hidden history.” Arts Fuse review.
The Play That Goes Wrong, by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, & Henry Shields. Directed by Fred Sullivan, Jr. Staged by the Lyric Stage at 140 Clarendon Street, 2nd Floor, Boston, November 11 through December 18.
This backstage comedy is billed as “Part Monty Python, part Sherlock Holmes, all mayhem.” “‘Break a leg!’ takes on a whole new meaning for a woefully misguided troupe of players at the Cornley University Society’s opening night performance of The Murder at Haversham Manor. An unconscious leading lady, a corpse who can’t play dead, a ruffled detective, and a word-mangling butler (among others) must battle against technical gaffes, forgotten lines, and sabotaging scenery in a quest to arrive all in one piece at the final curtain call.”
Joe Turner’s Come and Gone by August Wilson. Directed by Lili-Anne Brown. Staged by the Huntington Theatre Company at 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston, through November 27.
One of August Wilson’s finest dramas: “At a Pittsburgh boarding house in 1911, Herald Loomis arrives in search of his lost wife — but first he must regain a sense of his own heritage and identity.” This production serves as the inaugural production of the newly renovated Huntington Theatre. Arts Fuse review
OTP by Elise Wien. Directed by Enzo Gonzales. A BU New Play Initiative production, produced by Boston Playwrights’ Theatre and the Boston University College of Fine Arts School of Theatre, at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, 949 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, December 8 through 18.
“Set in 2015, the comedy centers on 15-year-old best friends Ceci and Michelle. By day, they’re students in Oak Park, Illinois. By night, they take the internet by storm, crafting an alternate universe where a teenage President Obama courts the teenage President of Oak Park High School — and takes her political advice.” Described as a “lyrical and engaging love letter to fanfiction and teenage friendship,” the script “also asks how the stories we tell ourselves and others shape our political discourse and our sense of civic responsibility.”
The Railway Children, adapted from the novel by Edith Nesbit. Music and lyrics by Jane Shaw & Mark Hartman. Adapted and directed by Carol Dunne & Eric Love. Staged by Northern Stage at the Byrne Theater, 74 Gates Street White River Junction, VT, November 22 through January 1.
“Faced with a family crisis during the Great Depression, three siblings are uprooted from their city lives to a small Vermont railway town. Bobbie, Peter, and Phyllis are transformed by their life in the country as they make thrilling discoveries exploring the railroad and befriending the people in their new town. Adapted from the beloved children’s novel of the same name, this new musical holiday classic celebrates resilience, kindness, and the power of community.”
The Brightest Thing in the World by Leah Nanako Winkler. Directed by Margot Bordelon. Staged at the Yale Repertory Theatre, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven, November 25 through December 17.
A world premiere commissioned by the Yale Repertory Theatre. “It is a classic rom-com. Beguiling Lane works in a bakery and in short order wins over cool customer Steph with her warmth, wit, and homemade desserts. Their blossoming relationship also opens the door to romance for Lane’s older sister Della, who hasn’t been on a date in years. But the skies dramatically darken as each woman must come to terms with her own limitations.”
Life of Pi, based on the 2001 novel by Yann Martel. Adapted for the stage by Lolita Chakrabarti. Directed by Max Webster. Puppetry and movement direction by Finn Caldwell. Scenic and costume design by Tim Hatley. Presented by the American Repertory Theater at the Loeb drama Center, Cambridge, December 4 through January 29.
A North American premiere: “Sixteen-year-old Pi and his family set off to emigrate from India, but after their ship sinks in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Pi is left stranded on a lifeboat with just four other survivors—a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a Royal Bengal tiger. Time is against them, nature is harsh, who will survive?” Winner of five 2022 Olivier Awards including Best New Play, the production, which promises to be spectacular, plays here before it makes its way to Broadway in March.
Two Degrees by Tira Palmquist. Directed by Paige Clark. Central Square Theater presents a Catalyst Collaborative@MIT staged reading as part of their Science on Stage reading series. At the MIT Museum, 314 Main Street, Cambridge, December 5 at 6:30 p.m. (6 p.m. cash bar and refreshments. t=The performance will be followed by a conversation with a guest scientist.)
In Tira Palmquist’s script about the climate crisis, “Emma Phelps is a paleoclimatologist, focusing on ice in Greenland. In drilling and studying ice core samples, she sees first-hand the symptoms of our changing planet, which makes the need to act all the more crucial and urgent. In addition to her growing sense of urgency for the planet, Emma, as a recent widow, experiences grief that compounds itself with each passing month. Now she’s been asked to come to Washington D.C. to testify in a Senate Committee regarding climate change legislation, and in this intersection of science and politics, of politics and the personal, she finds more than just a little is breaking up under the strain of change.”
— Bill Marx
The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford kicks off holiday celebrations at noon on December 1 with its annual Festival of Trees & Traditions. The entire museum will be lavishly and spectacularly decked out with trees and wreaths, all elaborately decorated by artists, local organizations, and community members. Established in 1973 by the Friends of the Wadsworth Athenaeum, the festival is a fundraiser and everything in it is for sale. Visitors come from far and wide to acquire heirloom seasonal decor for their homes or to donate to charities. Proceeds benefit the museum’s special exhibition and education programs and its general operating funds.
After Japan opened to the West in the late 19th century, the humble Japanese woodblock print began to arrive in the United States and Europe, often as packing material for export goods. Though in Japan the prints were just cheap, popular images, associated with Tokyo’s Entertainment District (known as the “Floating World”), their bold, flat shapes, asymmetric compositions, bright colors, and images of an exotic world of courtesans, kabuki actors, famous sumo wrestlers, landscapes, and domestic scenes created a sensation in places like Paris, influencing artists and designers and creating a widespread vogue for things in the Japanese style. The prints were especially popular with late Victorian collectors. The Worcester Art Museum’s exhibition, The Floating World: Japanese Prints from the Bancroft Collection, opening November 26, revisits this ever-popular medium with 50 examples, 48 of them never before exhibited at the museum, drawn from the 3700 works in the Bancroft Collection, the first of its kind, donated to the museum in 1901.
In conjunction with its current exhibition Brought to Life: Painted Wood Sculpture from Europe, 1300-1700, the Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton will offer a virtual program on the conservation and analysis of painted sculpture with curator of painting and sculpture Danielle Carrabino and conservator Valentine Talland, who worked with the museum on several pieces in the exhibition. The online program begins at noon on December 1 and will take participants behind the scenes to explore how scientific analysis helps conserve and preserve works of art. Registration is free through the museum’s website.
On December 4, the New Britain Museum of Art will offer a walk-in tour of its recently opened show Edward Burtynsky: Earth Observed and a “virtual conversation” with Burtynsky himself on the large-scale, beautiful, and unsettling photographs of the global industrial world he has been making for over 40 years. Both events take place from 1 to 2 p.m. The conversation requires registration through the museum’s website. Tickets are $5.
On December 2 at 2 p.m. the Williams College Museum of Art will offer a tour of Mary Ann Unger: To Shape a Moon from Bone, led by Unger’s daughter, artist Eve Biddle (the Unger retrospective also includes works by Biddle). Unger (1945-1998), a member of the Guerrilla Girls, a feminist group of female artists formed in 1985 and dedicated to fighting sexism and racism in the art world, worked in graphic media, watercolor, sculpture, and large, site-specific work. She is known as a feminist pioneer of neo-expressionist sculptural form. The tour will be followed by hot cider in the museum lounge, in celebration of “Williamstown Holiday Walk Weekend.”
— Peter Walsh
November 21 at 8 p.m.
City Winery, Boston
To call Club d’Elf a “groove band” understates their depth and breadth. These inventive improvisers — lead by bassist, composer, and sintir player Mike Rivard — draw from a broad range of international rhythms, including “jazz, hip hop, electronica, avant garde, prog-rock, and dub,” and especially Moroccan trance music. The new album You Never Know covers Gnawan music, Miles Davis, Joe Zawinul, Moroccan band Nass el-Ghiwane, and Frank Zappa, as well as Rivard originals. So yes, great grooves, but enhanced by a whole lot more.
November 30 at 8 p.m.
City Winery, Boston
Over the course of a half-dozen albums, Kat Edmonson has proved herself an original interpreter of the American Songbook (with special attention to film scores) and a composer of beguiling ear-worm beauties herself (see her first hit, “Lucky,” featured in the rom-com Admission, and “If,” which showed up in the TV psycho-comedy Russian Doll). And last winter she was a hit in her theatrical debut with the Taylor Mac jazz/opera The Hang, which earned her praise as “the Teresa Stratas of Off-Off Broadway.” OK, then! Be that as it may, she’s a real jazz singer, and always delivers the goods. For this special holiday show, she’ll probably be playing a lot of last year’s Holiday Swingin’.
“An Evening of Jazz and Healing”
December 1 at 7 p.m.
Coolidge Corner Theatre, Brookline
Sometimes a brother just has to step up. Now 86, Justin Freed — jazz fan, photographer, former owner and programmer of the Coolidge Corner Theatre — came up with this event (subtitled “A Multimedia Experience”) to confront these troubled times. Herewith, the official program description:
“The evening begins with celebrated pianist and composer Donal Fox, followed by a screening of Justin Freed’s film, Jazz Saved My Life. [The] film will feature music composed and played by Guillermo Nojechowicz and his superb group El Eco. His profoundly moving music speaks to the theme of the film: healing through art. After the film, composer and activist Maria Schneider will talk about her journey of healing through music and nature. She will then introduce the final musical group, four members of her important orchestra. They will open with music from Winter Morning Walks, her Classical Grammy-winning album.”
December 2 at 9 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston
Call singer and songwriter Thana Alexa a definitive “fusion” artist — it’s not just the mix of jazz, rock, and other traditions in her music, but also her mixed background (American born and raised until moving with her family back to their native Croatia), and her multiple projects, including her husband Antonio Sanchez’s Bad Hombre. These days she’s working her Grammy-nominated ONA project (from the album of the same name).
December 3 at 7 p.m.
Paradise Rock Club, Boston
We had to look twice, but, yes, the singular jazz guitarist and composer Julian Lage is playing the Paradise Rock Club. Clearly we have to give Lage’s latest, View with a Room, another listen. Anyway, here’s a chance to catch that and other Lage music live, with his terrific trio mates Jorge Roeder (bass) and David King (of the Bad Plus, drums).
Harriet Tubman Band
December 3 at 7 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston
Now officially venerable (in music-age terms), the Harriet Tubman Band (b. 1998) is a throwback of sorts to the early fusion projects of the Tony Williams Lifetime, Mahavishnu, Miles Davis’s first fully electric bands (with Mahavishnu himself), and, oh, Living Colour and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. And a fine tradition it is! The players are the great guitarist Brandon Ross, polymath electric bassist Melvin Gibbs, and drummer J.T. Lewis.
December 3 at 7:30 p.m.
Pickman Hall, Longy School of Music, Cambridge
The guitarist and composer Eric Hofbauer has fashioned a musical identity that’s equal parts musical invention and social engagement, manifested in his unique playing and writing style, his record label, Creative Nation Music, and various projects addressing American history and the life of our times. This time out it’s Waking Up!, a sequel to Book of Water (2019). Both address the climate emergency. In this case, Hofbauer has set activist Greta Thunberg’s historic 2019 “How dare you!” speech to music — the vocal rhythms, phrasing, and dynamics. It will be played (and improvised on) by Hofbauer and his superb Five Agents band: trumpeter Jerry Sabatini, tenor saxophonist, Seth Meicht, bassist Tony Leva, and drummer Curt Newton. As a prelude, “Longy students and faculty will perform a sound installation piece Calling from the Four Corners as the audience wanders through this climate action ‘science fair’ of sorts before being seated for the concert program.”
— Jon Garelick
December 4 at 1:30 p.m.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston
The Gardner continues its praiseworthy series of artists of color bridging the divide between jazz and classical music. This afternoon, pianist Diehl plays a fascinating program, with music by Black classical composers Florence Price and William Grant Still and jazz composers Mary Lou Williams and Duke Ellington. The centerpiece will be Ellington’s solo piano reduction of his piano concerto “New World A-Coming,” a work that began as optimism about a harmonious racial future for America and now seems epically tragic.
— Steve Elman
Roots and World Music
The Burren, Somerville
The entire Boston Celtic music community is rallying around WGBH host and concert impresario Brian O’Donovan as he fights terminal brain cancer. Incredibly, he is continuing his on-air work, his annual run of holiday shows, and his regular series of concerts at The Burren. Next up at the venue is a group typical of O’Donovan’s expansive taste — a rare chance to hear Scandinavian folk music via the acclaimed duo Gangspil.
The Cabot, Beverly, MA
It wouldn’t be Christmas on the North Shore without the annual appearance of Darlene Love, the voice behind many of the Wall of Sound holiday classics. At 81 Love’s legendary pipes are as strong as ever, and her skillfully arranged set lists never neglect the spiritual side of the holidays.
Tony Trischka Presents “Of A Winter’s Night”
An acoustic holiday celebration from banjo innovator Tony Trischka, whose lineup includes folk/punk pioneer and sacred harp singing scholar Tim Eriksen and Tony’s son Sean.
Berklee Performance Center
NPR’s live performance radio show Mountain Stage has been presenting a wide variety of roots and world artists, singer/songwriters, and much more for almost 40 years. The West Virginia-based radio show, heard locally on WUMB, has a new host, Kathy Mattea, and a live taping in Boston courtesy of the Celebrity Series. It’s a typically strong Mountain Stage lineup: Rosanne Cash, Loudon Wainwright III, Ali McGuirk, and Grammy Best New Artist nominee Molly Tuttle and her band Golden Highway. As any of the show’s regular listeners know, the musicians play mini-sets of their own before coming together for an epic finale.
— Noah Schaffer
WBUR CitySpace: Bill McKibben – brookline booksmith
The Flag, The Cross, The Station Wagon
November 21 at 6 p.m.
“In this revelatory cri de coeur, McKibben digs deep into our history (and his own well-meaning but not all-seeing past) and into the latest scholarship on race and inequality in America, on the rise of the religious right, and on our environmental crisis to explain how we got to this point. He finds that he is not without hope. And he wonders if any of that trinity of his youth — The Flag, the Cross, and The Station Wagon — could, or should, be reclaimed in the fight for a fairer future.” Arts Fuse review
Poetry Open Mic Night – Trident Booksellers & Cafe
November 20 from 7-9 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 p.m. 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.”
Live at Brookline Booksmith! Dessa
Tits on the Moon
November 21 at 7 p.m.
“Tits on the Moon features a dozen ‘stage poems,’ many of which Dessa performs at her legendary live shows; they’re funny, weird, and occasionally bittersweet. The collection opens with a short essay on craft (and the importance of having a spare poem around for when the power goes out). Dessa is a writer and touring musician who splits her time between Minneapolis, Manhattan, and a tour van cruising at 6 miles per hour above the posted limit.
“Proudly published by Rain Taxi in association with Doomtree, Tits on the Moon features a stunning cover pressed with gold foil and structurally embossed, designed by Studio on Fire.”
Jamie McCallum at Harvard Book Store
Essential: How the Pandemic Transformed the Long Fight for Worker Justice
November 29 at 7 p.m.
“Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, essential workers lashed out against low wages, long hours, and safety risks, attracting a level of support unseen in decades. This explosion of labor unrest seemed sudden to many. But Essential reveals that American workers had simmered in discontent long before their anger boiled over.
Decades of austerity, sociologist Jamie K. McCallum shows, have left frontline workers vulnerable to employer abuse, lacking government protections, and increasingly furious. Through firsthand research conducted as the pandemic unfolded, McCallum traces the evolution of workers’ militancy, showing how their struggles for safer workplaces, better pay and health care, and the right to unionize have benefited all Americans and spurred a radical new phase of the labor movement. This is essential reading for understanding the past, present, and future of the working class.”
Sarah Silberstein Swartz — brookline booksmith
Heroines, Rescuers, Rabbis, Spies: Unsung Women of the Holocaust
At the Puppet Showcase Theater, 32 Station Street, Brookline Village
November 30 at 6 p.m.
“Discover nine ordinary women who took extraordinary measures to save lives during the Holocaust, resisting terror and torture while undercover or in hiding, in concentration camps, in forests, and in exile.
“With compassion and admiration, author Sarah Silberstein Swartz paints portraits of women who stood up for themselves and others in dangerous times. Overlooked by history, they leapt from fear to action with bravery that deserves recognition.”
Dalkey Archive Press: Then, Now, & Next
Porter Square Books, Somerville
December 1 at 9 p.m.
“Dalkey Archive Press is one of the most storied independent publishers in America, one that has left an incredible mark on the literary world, the nonprofit publishing field, and thousands upon thousands of readers. With a matchless backlist from writers who have been advancing the art of fiction for decades, both internationally and domestically, the press has played a major role in the history of letters. As it approaches its 40th year, though, it’s also a growing enterprise, bringing classic work to new audiences and launching the next generation of boundary-breaking authors.”
Rob Delaney at First Church Cambridge – Harvard Book Store
A Heart That Works
December 1 at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $30 with copy of book
“In 2016, Rob Delaney’s one-year-old son, Henry, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. A Heart That Works is Delaney’s intimate, unflinching, and fiercely funny exploration of what happened — from the harrowing illness to the vivid, bodily impact of grief and the blind, furious rage that followed, through to the forceful, unstoppable love that remains. In the madness of his grief, Delaney grapples with the fragile miracle of life, the mysteries of death, and the question of purpose for those left behind.
Delaney’s memoir — profound, painful, full of emotion, and bracingly honest — offers solace to those who have faced devastation and shows us how grace may appear even in the darkest times.”
— Matt Hanson
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