Coming Attractions: January 28 through February 12 — What Will Light Your Fire
Our expert critics supply a guide to film, dance, visual art, theater, author readings, and music. More offerings will be added as they come in.
We Were Given These Instructions: Kelly Sears
January 28 at 2 p.m.
Brattle Theatre in Cambridge
The first RPM24 screening of 2024 showcases the unconventional works of experimental animator Kelly Sears by presenting a collection of 10 shorts that reinterpret American archetypes and institutions. Her most recent creation, The Last Season, is set to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival 2024. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Kelly Sears & Shira Segal. Sears’ Vimeo site
Playing at Kendall Square, Coolidge Corner, and AMC Theaters
Ava Marie DuVernay (Selma, 13th, When They See Us) has taken Isabel Wilkerson’s best-selling nonfiction study Caste and turned it into a hybrid: a combination of narrative and documentary that conveys the essential history of America’s own racial “caste” system while not neglecting the book’s emotional power. After writing The Warmth of Other Suns, her history of the Great Migration of African Americans, Wilkerson — played by Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor (King Richard) — felt that she needed to say more. The film dramatizes how the writer conceived, researched, and finally wrote Caste. (Arts Fuse review)
January 31 at 7 p.m.
Coolidge Corner Theatre
The Sounds of Silents series presents Fritz Lang’s futuristic masterpiece from 1927. Set in the year 2027, this hallucinatory epic became a template for cinematic sci-fi — a nightmare without the reassurance of a steadying story line. The screening will be accompanied by a live score performed by Boston’s Anvil Orchestra.
(Some of) The Best of 2023
through February 1
Brattle Theatre in Cambridge
The theater’s annual revival of recent films that you may have missed, often put together with in amusing double feature packages: Scrapper and Polite Society (Sunday); How To Blow Up a Pipeline (Monday); Mutt and Orlando: My Political Biography (Tuesday); Passages and Anatomy of a Fall (Wednesday); Joan Baez: I Am Noise (Thursday) and Infinity Pool (Friday). Arts Fuse reviews of How to Blow Up a Pipeline and Anatomy of a Fall.
After he steals a painting from a local museum, a passionate but untalented artist is thrust into the midst of a group of criminals, mobsters, and swindlers who involve him in the most significant art theft in modern history. Inspired by the true story of the 1990 robbery of Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. The film was shot and produced locally, which will be a fun bonus for Bostonians. There will be a Q&A following the screening with the producers, the writer, and actor Chris Lazzaro. Trailer
Amplifying Voices Film Program
February 2 – 3
Cabot Theater in Beverly
The film series, curated by CineFest Latino Boston and the Roxbury International Film Festival, celebrates the perspectives and work of filmmakers of color. Friday’s Opening Night Feature is La Pecera (The Fishbowl), in which a woman diagnosed with cancer “heads back to Vieques, the blissful eastern Puerto Rican island where she grew up; a land grappling with its own poisoning after decades of contamination from U.S. Army operations.” Saturday’s centerpiece, A Story of Bones, chronicles efforts to reclaim a burial site containing thousands of formerly enslaved Africans in the British territory Saint Helena. The two-day event also features Next Generation Youth Films, and two Shorts Series: Relationships and Animated: Artists in Their Own Words. Tickets
The Painting (Le tableau)
February 10 at 2:30 p.m.
Museum of Fine Arts in Boston
The first in the series “Created Worlds: Animation from around the Globe.” This animated French feature by Jean-Francois Laguionie is a political fable centered on three character types who live in an unfinished painting: the Toupins, the Pafinis and the Reufs. Considering themselves as superior, the Toupins seize power, drive away the Pafinis, and enslave the Reufs.
The Universal Theory
February 11 at 11 a.m.
Coolidge Corner Theater
Goethe German Film begins its winter screening series with Universal Theory, a thriller involving false memories, real nightmares, and a dark, booming mystery hidden under the mountain. Variety called the film a “sumptuous homage to Hitchcock packaged as a Metaphysical Noir.”
Pick of the Week
Nazi Town, USA
American Experience | PBS
Nazi Town, USA tells the largely unknown story of the Bund, an ambitious fascist pro-Nazi organization that had scores of chapters in suburbs and cities across the country in the 1930’s. Peter Yost’s film describes attempts to establish white supremacist and fascist rule between the two World Wars. Phillip Roth imagined the possibility of that happening in his novel The Plot Against America. This documentary is a chilling companion to a spate of recent books, including Naomi Klein’s Doppelganger and Heather Cox Richardson’s Democracy Awakening, and films, Ana DuVernay’s Caste and Jonathan Glazer’s Zone of Interest among them. Professor Beverly Gage, one of the scholars seen in the film, makes a powerfully salient point: “The history of the German American Bund reminds us that fascism is ultra nationalist. There’s no such thing as foreign fascism. Fascism is always homegrown.” A segment of the film
— Tim Jackson
Alice in the Cities
January 29 at 6 p.m.
Free screening (passes not required)
An influential “road” film directed by Wim Wenders. It was his fourth, and the one that he says gave him his cinematic sea legs. “German journalist Philip Winter has a case of writer’s block when trying to write an article about the United States. He decides to return to Germany, and while trying to book a flight, encounters a German woman and her nine year old daughter Alice doing the same. The three become friends (almost out of necessity) and while the mother asks Winter to mind Alice temporarily, it quickly becomes apparent that Alice will be his responsibility for longer than he expected.” Ezra Glenn of MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning (and Arts Fuse film critic) will introduce the film and lead the post-screening discussion.
— Bill Marx
Randall Goosby plays Bruch
Presented by Boston Symphony Orchestra
February 2 at 1:30 p.m. and 3 at 8 p.m.
Symphony Hall, Boston
Randall Goosby makes his BSO debut, playing Max Bruch’s evergreen Violin Concerto No. 1 (a work he made an impressive recording of last year). Also on tap are Ethel Smyth’s Overture to The Wreckers and Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5. Andris Nelsons conducts.
Renée Fleming in recital
Presented by Celebrity Series
February 4 at 5 p.m.
Symphony Hall, Boston
Soprano Fleming and pianist Inon Barnatan bring their Voice of Nature: the Anthropocene to Symphony Hall. The program includes a genre-defying program as well as video footage from the National Geographic Society.
Canellakis conducts Bluebeard’s Castle
Presented by Boston Symphony Orchestra
February 8 at 7:30 p.m., 9 at 1:30 p.m., and 10 at 8 p.m.
Symphony Hall, Boston
Karina Canellakis — whose appearance at Symphony Hall last year was one of the season’s big highlights — returns to town to conduct Béla Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle. Johannes Martin Kränzle sings the title role and Karen Cargill is the doomed Judith. Alisa Weilerstein is also on hand to perform Franz Josef Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C.
National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine
Presented by Music Worcester
February 9 at 8 p.m.
Mechanics Hall, Worcester
The National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine returns to Worcester with a pair of Slavic symphonies — Antonin Dvorak’s Eighth and Maksym Berezovsky’s First — alongside Camille Saint-Saëns’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Volodymyr Vynnytsky is the soloist in the latter; Volodymyr Sirenko conducts.
Víkingur Ólafsson in recital
Presented by Celebrity Series
February 10 at 8 p.m.
Jordan Hall, Boston
Pianist Ólafsson returns to Boston with a single piece — J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations — in tow.
— Jonathan Blumhofer
Naughty Bits, created and performed by Sara Juli. Presented by 3S Artspace, 319 Vaughan Street, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, February 9 and 10.
According to the show’s publicity about this “introspective and provocative solo work”: “This is a dance-play set inside Sara Juli’s memories. Through movement, text, song, projections, and humor, Sara builds, and ultimately reclaims, her own process of processing trauma —uncovering the forgotten bits, funny bits, and wobbly bits of putting one’s mind and body back together.”
— Bill Marx
Crys Matthews is an artist with a mission. Literally. The mission statement on her website states, “To amplify the voices of the unheard, to shed light on the unseen, and to be a steadfast reminder that hope and love are the truest pathways to equity and justice.
“As a social-justice songwriter,” the North Carolina native-turned-Nashville resident further states, “it is my duty to keep breathing that hope and encouragement into the people who listen to my music.”
To that end, her latest album — 2021’s Changemakers — includes songs like “How Many More,” the verses of which name the countless Black victims of police brutality and whose refrains ask, among other questions, “And if you were us, how much more could you bear? How many ‘I can’t breathes’ before you care?”
And there’s plenty more where that came from. Since releasing Backroads and Driveways in 2011, Matthews has recorded four more LPs and an equal number of EPs.
On February 4 in City Winery’s Haymarket Lounge, Matthews will conduct a Social Justice Songwriting Masterclass in the afternoon and perform a live set at 7:30.
Chicago native’s Ezra Furman’s connection to the Boston area date back at least as far as her time as a student at Tufts in the late aughts and early ’10s. During this time, she recorded three albums as the leader of The Harpoons. Since going solo, she has released six full-length albums, including 2022’s All of Us Flames. I, however, first became aware of her by way of her contributions to the soundtrack to all four seasons of the excellent Netflix series Sex Education.
Furman now lives in Somerville with her five-year-old child. (She enrolled in rabbinical school at Hebrew College in 2021, but I am not certain what the current status of that endeavor is.) If you can’t make it to her February 6 show at The Rockwell, then clear your calendar for her visits to the same venue on March 5 and/or April 10.
“I have known John since the ’90s, as we are both from Albany, played the same clubs, and shared many bills,” says John Powhida of fellow musician John Brodeur. “We have always been friendly and I have been proud to see his accomplishments from afar.”
While both have origins in Albany, Powhida has long been a highly visible component of the Boston music scene as leader of the eponymous International Airport. (Click here and here for Jason M. Rubin’s Arts Fuse reviews of Powhida’s latest albums.)
Brodeur, meanwhile, is a Brooklyn-based musician who released several albums under his own name before adopting the Bird Streets moniker for a self-titled LP in 2018 and 2023’s Lagoon, which includes guest appearances by Wilco’s Pat Sansone, Big Star’s Jody Stephens, and Aimee Mann, and was partly recorded at Boston’s Dimension Sound Studios.
The admiration between these two Johns from Albany is presumably mutual, and will surely be apparent when they play Rockwood Music Hall on February 9.
Steve Forbert’s six decade-spanning career has been marked by some interesting highlights. Music observers mentioned him among several contenders for “the new Bob Dylan” at the time of his 1978 debut, Alive On Arrival. Thirty-six years later, a cut from that album, “Grand Central Station, March 18, 1977,” was included on Village Voice’s 2014 list of “The 60 Greatest Songs Ever Written About New York City” (not bad for a Mississippi native).
The following year, Forbert missed the top 10 by one spot with his 1979 single “Romeo’s Tune,” which Keith Urban covered in 2007. In 1983, he appeared in the unforgettable video (man in tux at 3:44) for Cyndi Lauper’s timeless single “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” In 2004, the then 50-year-old received a Best Traditional Folk Grammy nomination (his first) for Any Old Time: Songs of Jimmie Rodgers. More recently, Forbert became a published memoirist when Big City Cat: My Life in Folk Rock appeared in 2018. His 20th album of original material, Moving Through America, was released in 2022.
Freedy Johnston — who broke through in 1994 with his song “Bad Reputation” (covered by Death Cab for Cutie in 2005) and album This Perfect World — also returned in 2022 with a new album, Back On the Road to You. Guests on the album include Aimee Mann (“Darlin’”), Susan Cowsill (“The Power of Love”), and Susanna Hoffs (“That’s Life”). With his voice undiminished and his songwriting chops perfectly intact, Back on the Road to You was a welcome return for a consistently creative and much-admired artist.
— Blake Maddux
Roots and World Music
Spirit of Music Potluck Concert
February 4 at 4 p.m.
Unitarian Universalist Church of Medford, 147 High Street, Medford
A new nonprofit, Down by Riverside is aiming to connect communities through music. Their first endeavor is this free, family-friendly “donations appreciated” afternoon that features an excellent bill of three interconnected artists: New Orleans mainstay Glen David Andrews, Boston reggae great Jonathan Gramling, and soul/Caribbean powerhouse Toussaint the Liberator. As the event name implies, there’s also a food potluck. Speaking of Andrews, he’ll be back in Medford on February 10 to celebrate Mardi Gras at The Porch.
Jim Kweskin Jug Band Reunion
Regent Theater, Arlington
One of the dwindling number of survivors of the ’60s folk heyday, Jim Kweskin has a new record with the self-explanatory name Never Too Late: Duets With My Friends. Those friends range from Kweskin Jug Band singer Maria Muldaur to his granddaughter Fiona. A bevy of other pals are joining in at this show, including John Sebastian, Geoff Muldaur, master old-time fiddler and blues guitarist Suzy Thompson, and the great dobro & steel guitar player Cindy Cashdollar. The Regent show is sold out, but Californian Thompson is sticking around to play February 7 for notloB Parlour Concerts in Harvard and February 8 in Roslindale at a house concert — details available via email from email@example.com.
Mike Marshall & Darol Anger
February 4, Shalin Liu Performing Arts Center, Rockport, MA
February 6, Berklee Performance Center
February 9, Groton Hill Music Center
Mandolinist Mike Marshall and fiddler Darol Anger are celebrating 45 years of making music together. They first met as bandmates in the David Grisman Quintet, and ever since they’ve continued at their mission of deftly mixing together bluegrass, Brazilian, classical, Celtic, and just about every other kind of music that can be played on acoustic string instruments. It’s been a long time since they appeared as a duo here. On top of that, the Rockport and Berklee shows have something extra in store: the Berklee World Strings under Eugene Friesen will be joining in to lend an orchestral touch to some Marshall/Anger originals. In Groton it’ll be the classic duo — which is just as special.
Josiah Reibstein and the Mardi Gras All-Stars featuring Robbie Pate
February 10 at 7:30 p.m.
Mardi Gras Party with Jambalaya Horns and Henri Smith
February 10 at 8:30 p.m.
The Cut, Gloucester
Many of us in Boston know what it means to miss New Orleans, especially during Mardi Gras season. Happily, you don’t need to take an expensive flight to enjoy some brass bands and beads. One of Boston’s most talented and versatile traditional jazz heroes will be playing Crescent City favorites with his octet at the Regattabar with featured vocalist Robbie Pate. Up at the new Cut in Gloucester, the Jambalaya Horns will be joined by NOLA transplant Henri Smith. And the second line won’t stop after Fat Tuesday: Smith is joining the Revolutionary Snake Ensemble and saxophonist Amadee Castenell at Scullers on February 17.
— Noah Schaffer
COVID PROTOCOLS: Check with specific theaters.
Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme: Only sounds that tremble through us in the Hayden Gallery at the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, through March 3.
Given how grievously Boston’s theaters are overlooking events in the contemporary world, particularly in the Middle East, this multichannel sound and video installation suggests possibilities, for stage artists, of how the ongoing turmoil might be dramatized. This is a new site-specific iteration of Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahm’s May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth (2020–ongoing), a multipart project that brings together (according to its publicity) “fragments of communal song and dance in Iraq, Palestine, Syria, and Yemen, which the artists collected from videos posted on social media over the past decade, with new filmic performances created by the artists with dancers and musicians who responded to specific gestures, music, or texts from the archive. In looking at ephemeral performances in politically marginalized parts of the world and asking what it means to archive sound and gesture through embodiment, the artists reveal performance to be both a critical space of resilience and an ever-evolving repository of memory.”
John Proctor Is the Villain by Kimberly Belflower. Directed by Margot Bordelon. Staged by the Huntington Theatre Company at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for The Arts, 527 Tremont St, Boston, February 8 through March 10.
According to the Huntington Theatre Company’s publicity material: “At a rural high school in Georgia, a group of lively teens explore Arthur Miller’s The Crucible while navigating young love, sex ed, and a few school scandals. With a contemporary lens on the American classic, the young women begin to discover their power and agency, finding a way to hold both the classic text and their community to account.”
The Good Soldier Švejk and His Fortunes in the First World War, Jaroslav Hašek’s novel adapted and directed for the stage by Vít Horejš. Staged by the Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre at the Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. (at E. 10th Street), New York, February 1 through 14.
Yes, this show is in New York, but I love puppets and Czech writer Jaroslav Hašek’s classic antiwar novel, The Good Soldier Švejk, which celebrated its centennial last year (it was published, in six volumes, from 1921 to 1923). The lowdown from the company that is mounting the first puppet theater adaptation of the book: “In the story, Švejk [pronounced ‘Shvayk’], a professional dog thief and certified dimwit, stumbles through the WWI military machine of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, whose Czech soldiers are fighting in a conflict they do not understand on behalf of an empire to which they have no reason for loyalty. A series of absurdly comic episodes explore the pointlessness and futility of military discipline and of conflict in general, defining the idiocy of war and the men who wage it, not just in the Great War but in all wars; not just the idiocy of war but idiocy itself.” The book’s dark farce inspired Joseph Heller (Catch 22), the creators of M*A*S*H, Bertolt Brecht (Schweik in the Second World War), and other opponents of senseless combat. FYI — Since the late 1990s, military spending around the world has doubled in real terms. (Source: Adam Tooze’s Chartbook)
La Broa’ (Broad Street) by Orlando Hernández, inspired by Latino History of Rhode Island: Nuestras Raíces, oral histories collected by Marta V. Martínez. Directed by Tatyana-Marie Carlo. Staged by Trinity Rep at the Dowling Theater, 201 Washington St., Providence, through February 18.
An intriguing world premiere of what is a true theatrical rarity in these parts — a play that reflects the local community and has not been blessed with blurbs from the New York Times. According to the publicity: “Doña Rosa’s Market on La Broa’ (Providence’s Broad Street) is where Rhode Islanders of ‘la comunidad Latina’ have gathered for decades. It is there that they share their stories — from the experience of recent immigration to those of Americans whose threads stretch much further back. This drama draws from the true tales of Latina/Latino Rhode Islanders who have made this place their home, as documented by Marta V. Martínez in the oral history Nuestras Raíces (Our Roots).”
Trouble in Mind by Alice Childress. Directed by Dawn M. Simmons. Staged by the Lyric Stage at 140 Clarendon Street, 2nd Floor, Boston, through February 4.
This is a neglected (but critically admired) script by a Black playwright that has become popular on mainstream stages over the past decade or so. Actress Alice Childress wrote the drama in 1955 — it was her first. The play, which satirizes racism and sexism on Broadway, was produced Off-Broadway. It won an Obie Award for Best Original Play, making Childress the first Black woman to be awarded the honor. I am glad to see the Lyric Stage mount a production — though note that it took a well-received Broadway production to make it happen.
According to the publicity release: “It’s 1955, and after enduring indignities and lost opportunities, Wiletta Mayer, a seasoned Black actress, is finally making her Broadway debut. Written by a white playwright, her star vehicle is the allegedly progressive ‘Chaos in Belleville,’ which turns out to be anything but. Leading a cast of both younger and experienced actors, Wiletta challenges not only the soft racism of her white director but also the veiled prejudice that limits her aspirations and success.” Arts Fuse review
Hir by Taylor Mac. Directed by Brien Lang. Staged by the Wilbury Theatre Group at the WaterFire Arts Center, 475 Valley St, Providence, through February 4.
This is a genuinely subversive domestic comedy. In 2018 I saw a good production of it at Shakespeare and Company. According to the publicity release:”Somewhere in the suburbs, Isaac has returned from the wars to help take care of his ailing father, only to discover a household in revolt. The insurgent: his mom. Liberated from an oppressive marriage, with Isaac’s newly out transgender sibling as her ally, she’s on a crusade to dismantle the patriarchy. But annihilating the past doesn’t always free you from it.”
Northside Hollow, written and directed by Jonathan Fielding and Brenda Withers. Staged by Harbor Theatre Company at the BCA Plaza Black Box Theatre, 539 Tremont Street, Boston, through January 20.
According to the company’s publicity release: “Trapped underground after a deadly collapse, a miner finds his salvation in the arrival of a scrappy first responder. Cape Cod’s Harbor Stage Company remounts their critically-acclaimed world premiere.”
Stand Up If You Are Here Tonight, written and directed by John Kolvenbach. Staged by the Huntington Theatre Company at the Maso Studio in The Huntington Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston, through March 23.
According to the publicity release: “You’ve tried everything. Yoga. Acupuncture. Therapy. You floated in salt water in the pitch black dark. You juiced, you cleansed, you journaled, you cut, you volunteered. You ate only RINDS for three days and nights. You reached out, you looked within. You have tried. And yet here you are.”
Thus begins John Kolvenbach’s script, which deals with “a man desperate for connection, bent by isolation, and deeply in love with the audience itself. ” Jim Ortlieb plays The Man.
Liv At Sea, written and directed by Robert Knopf. Staged by Liv At Sea productions at the Boston Center for the Arts, Plaza Black Box Theater, 539 Tremont Street, Boston, through January 28.
Liv At Sea had its world premiere this year as part of Harbor Stage Company’s 2023 Season in Wellfleet. The script, according to the publicity release, “centers around Liv, a young woman at a crossroads. She’s doing just fine; a steady job, a solid partner, a typical life in the city. But when sparks fly during a chance encounter with a stranger, she’s left wondering how to feed a flame without burning everything else to the ground.” This is billed as a “love story about open hearts, broken promises, and the choice of a lifetime.”
Duel Reality, performed by The 7 Fingers, originally created and produced with Virgin Voyages. Direction and staging by Shana Carroll. Presented by Arts Emerson at the Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre, 219 Tremont Street, Boston, February 7 through 18.
From the publicity handout for what will be an American premiere: “Imagine a world where star-crossed lovers are circus stars, their love story unfolding through graceful and death-defying acrobatics. This is Duel Reality, an elaborate and fast-paced mashup of Shakespeare’s most famous love story and the intense world of competitive team sports. In the midst of the provocation and action, we catch a glimpse of our star-crossed lovers. They are fierce players, but do they care who wins or loses if playing the game can bring them closer together?”
The Interrobangers by M. Sloth Levine. Directed by Josh Glenni-Kayden. Staged by Company One in partnership with the Boston Public Library and The Theater Offensive at the Boston Public Library, Central Branch, Rabb Hall, Boston, through February 24.
According to the publicity release: “Something’s lurking deep in the woods of Foggy Bluffs. And as usual, it’s up to four groovy teens and a dog to get to the bottom of it. But in order to solve the mystery, the old friends must delve into their chilling past and uncover their town’s darkest secrets.”
“M. Sloth Levine’s script puts a new spin on a classic tale via a queer coming-of-age story about exploring identity, creating community, and finding that men in masks are the scariest monsters of all. And they might have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for these meddling kids!”
A Case for the Existence of God by Samuel D. Hunter. Directed by Melinda Lopez. Staged by SpeakEasy Stage at the Roberts Studio Theatre, 529 Tremont Street, Boston, January 26 through February 17.
A Boston premiere of a two-hander by Samuel D. Hunter, who gave us The Whale. According to the publicity release: “Inside a cubicle in a bank in Twin Falls, Idaho, Keith, a mortgage broker, and Ryan, a yogurt plant worker, unexpectedly choose to bring one another into their fragile worlds. Ryan, who is white and divorced, wants to buy a plot of land that his family used to own in the hopes of making a better life for his daughter. Keith, who is Black, gay, and also single, is looking to adopt his foster daughter Willa before her relatives can steal her away.” Cast includes De’lon Grant and Jessie Hinton. Arts Fuse review.
Machine Learning by Francisco Mendoza. Directed by Gabriel Vega Weissman. A Catalyst Collaborative@MIT Production produced in partnership with Teatro Chelsea at Central Square Theatre, 450 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, through February 25.
The plot, according to the publicity release: “Artificial Intelligence is here. There’s no turning back. “Arnold” (named after the Terminator) is a nursing application created by wunderkind computer scientist Jorge to provide personalized treatment to Gabriel, his estranged and ailing father. As Arnold’s learning increases and Gabriel’s health deteriorates, Jorge must confront his responsibility as a son and accountability as a creator. Full disclosure: This play description is 100% human content.” But is the script 100% human content? I am waiting for the first AI play to be produced. It might offer some healthy competition.
Little Peasants by Bernard Pollack. Directed by Dori A. Robinson. Staged by Food Tank at The Burren 247 Elm St, Somerville, February 7 and 21.
A workshop production that sounds very intriguing — it is an unusually pro-union script for Boston-area theater. We are told that in the show “local Boston actors and creative team present an interactive, dramatic showcase of how workers at fictional coffee chain ‘Unicorn Coffee’ are treated during a union organizing campaign.” There is more: this will be an “immersive theatrical journey behind the closed doors of a food workers’ union organizing campaign … putting audience members in baristas’ shoes to demonstrate the tactics employers are using to thwart organizing efforts.”
My Mama and The Full-Scale Invasion by Sasha Denisova. Directed by Yury Urnov. A world premiere co-production between The Wilma and Washington, DC-based Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. The global live stream of this staging will be available for four performances from February 9 to 11, for $49.
Boston-area theater has shown no interest in the Ukraine war this season, so I felt it was worth listing this global livestream presented by a pair of major (and alert) regional companies. According to the show’s publicity, the play “centers on Denisova’s 82-year-old mama, Olga (Holly Twyford), who has lived in Kyiv her whole life. When Russia invades Ukraine in 2022, Sasha (Suli Holum) copes with her fears by imagining her mother in increasingly fantastical situations: strategizing with President Zelenskyy, meeting with world leaders, taking out Russian drones with jars of pickles, and even debating with God.”
— Bill Marx
Since 2018, longtime Boston music scene denizen Juliana Hatfield has kept things interesting by alternating between covers albums — Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John (2018, click for my interview with Hatfield) and Juliana Hatfield Sings the Police (2019) — and original material — Weird (2019, click for my review) and Blood (2021, click for my interview). Last November, she maintained the pattern with the release of Juliana Hatfield Sings ELO, which she will select from at City Winery on January 29.
— Blake Maddux
After more than a year of being closed to the public for renovations to its HVAC systems, the Davis Museum at Wellesley College will reopen on February 8 with the advent of Lorraine O’Grady: Both/And along with a series of celebrations honoring the event. The first major comprehensive survey of O’Grady’s work, the exhibition explores the four-decade career of the Boston-born conceptual artist and Wellesley alumna (Class of 1955).
O’Grady, who didn’t become an artist until she was 45, majored in economics at Wellesley and earned a degree from the famed University of Iowa’s Writer’s Workshop before working as an intelligence analyst in Washington and as a rock critic. Her work in conceptual art and performance art uses performance, photography, and video installations to explore the construction of identity, particularly Black female identity. The title of the Davis show refers to her use of the “diptych,” or two-panel form, to explore things usually considered opposites or binary positions but which O’Grady insists are “both/and” rather than “either/or.”
Also kicking off on February 8 at 6:30 p.m. is Taking the White Gloves Off: A Performance Art Series in Honor of Lorraine O’Grady ‘55, which continues through May. A symposium, Teaching/Learning with Lorraine O’Grady’s Both/And convenes at 10 a.m. on February 9.
Gold, the 79th element in the Periodic Table, is, we now know, older than our planet and solar system, having been forged in the much larger star that preceded our sun and whose dust makes up everything on earth, including ourselves. Perhaps by some prebiological, genetic memory, gold has always fascinated human beings: as a store of wealth and symbol of excellence, for its special chemical and physical properties, and for its dazzling decorative qualities.
Gilded: Contemporary Artists Explore Value and Worth, which opens at the Hood Museum at Dartmouth on February 3, includes the work of 17 contemporary artists and “explores the use and significance of gold in artistic expression today.” Using the ancient craft of gilding in unorthodox ways, the artists on view “ask us to see the beauty in what we overlook and honor that which we throw away.”
American sculptor Louise Nevelson (1899-1988), known for her intricate wood constructions, was born in Ukraine under the Russian Empire and emigrated to the United States as a child. Her family settled in Rockland, Maine — a coastal working-class town that has since become a center for art and tourism. The presentation of The World Outside: Louise Nevelson at Midcentury at the Colby College Art Museum, where the show opens on February 8, highlights the artist’s Maine connections and features creations she gave to the museum in 1973. Sixty works in all, including wall pieces, installations, and works on paper delve into Nevelson’s “involvement in modern dance, her interest in the environment and community building, and her innovations as a printmaker.”
Historically, the concept of “Persian” has fluctuated with conquest, trade, and migration, with boundaries ranging from the region of modern Iran to Afghanistan, Central Asia, and the northern parts of the Indian subcontinent, all sharing the legacy of a particularly refined visual taste. Painting the Persianate World: Portable Images on Paper, Cloth and Clay, draws together images from “Greater Iran” and India to “explore the circuitous histories of painted portable images from these regions across three media: paper, cloth, and clay.” The exhibition opens at the Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton on February 2.
The Great American Road Trip became a fixture of the open cross-country highways of the 1950s, before the Interstate System drained away much of the adventure by bypassing towns, roadhouses, lonely motels, and roadside attractions of all kinds. The content of Robert Frank and Todd Webb: Across America, 1955 was created two years before the publication of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, the novel that fixed the cross-country journey in the popular imagination. Photographers Frank and Webb, on separate 1955 Guggenheim Fellowships and with no knowledge of what the other was up to, created strikingly similar images of mid-century America and its popular culture as they traveled. This exhibition of the results of those two journeys opens at the Addison Gallery at Andover Academy on February 10.
Although most art museums are eager to show off their new acquisitions, few are entirely transparent about how those works entered the collection. Opening February 2 at the Portland Museum of Art, + collection includes over 50 works that have recently entered the PMA collection by bequest, gift, or purchase and pulls back the curtain on how potential collection additions are discussed, reviewed, evaluated, and ultimately decided upon. The scope of the show encompasses some transformational gifts, including more than 100 works from the Alex Katz Foundation and Judy Glickman Lauder’s promised gift of nearly 700 important photographs.
— Peter Walsh
“Duke Ellington: My Heart Sings”
February 1 at 7:30 p.m.
Plimpton Shattuck Black Box Theatre, New England Conservatory, Boston
It’s worth noting again that, with the price of concert tickets, there are plenty of Boston-area shows presented by the region’s many music schools featuring world-class faculty — for free. Case in point: Pianist, composer and New England Conservatory faculty member Jason Moran celebrates the 125th birthday of Duke Ellington (b. April 29, 1899) with this show at NEC. Moran will be joined by NEC students in “a range of music including solo piano performances, as well as music for large and small ensembles. The program includes the NEC Jazz Orchestra in ‘Braggin’ in Brass,’ ‘Jeep’s Blues,’ and ‘I Like the Sunrise,’ and a small ensemble in ‘Mood Indigo,’ ‘Transbluency,’ and ‘My Heart Sings.’
Cécile McLorin Salvant
February 2 at 8 p.m.
Sanders Theatre, Cambridge
Making some of the best jazz of any kind these days — for conceptual breadth as well as depth of execution — is singer and composer Cécile McLorin Salvant. She comes to Sanders Theatre with music from her latest, Mélusine, “a song cycle in three languages inspired by the European folk legend of a woman cursed to spend one day each week as a half-snake.” It was one of the top albums of 2023.
February 3 at 7 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston
The gifted and inventive trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, with his refreshing personal take on the post-bop tradition, brings a quintet to Scullers: vibraphonist Jalen Baker, guitarist Alex Wintz, bassist Leighton McKinley-Harrell, and drummer Jared Spears.
Mary Halvorson: Amaryllis
February 3 at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
The protean guitarist and composer performs the six-song suite Amaryllis, which she released in 2022 with a companion CD, Belladonna, the latter with the Mivos Quartet. Amaryllis was the “jazzier” of the two, and one of the best releases of that year. Halvorson will be joined by trumpeter Adam O’Farrill, trombonist Jacob Garchik, vibraphonist Patricia Brennan, bassist Nick Dunston, and drummer Tomas Fujiwara.
February 3 at 8 p.m.
Sanders Theatre, Cambridge
The phenomenal pianist and composer Brad Mehldau was in Boston not long ago with his celebrated trio. Now he’s back for a solo spin in a GlobalArts Live presentation. Mehldau will perform his newly commissioned Fourteen Reveries, “which reflects on the interior experience that we create from our own consciousness, independently of others. This solo piano work is a meditation on the space a composer leaves between specific directions, space that lets the beauty of the music reveal itself, while still allowing new discovery. Mehldau will also perform selections from Suite: April 2020 and other works.”
Ken Schaphorst Big Band
February 5 at 7:30 p.m.
The Regattabar has booked a truly stellar program to kick off its new monthly Monday-night big band program. New England Conservatory jazz studies chair Ken Schaphorst puts the NEC Jazz Orchestra through their paces and then brings on the 17-piece Ken Schaphorst Big Band, with a superb cast of Boston-area heavy cats, including saxophonists Allan Chase, Mark Zaleski, Noah Preminger, Felipe Salles, and Melanie Howell; trumpets Mike Peipman, Jeff Claassen, Doug Olsen, and Jason Palmer; trombones Chris Gagne, Clayton DeWalt, Bob Pilkington, and Bill Lowe; pianist Tim Ray; guitarist Amanda Monaco; bassist Bob Nieske; and drummer Mark Walker. Best of all, singer Dominique Eade and pianist/composer Ran Blake will join for a few numbers. Expect to hear, among other pieces, Blake’s “Memphis,” George Russell’s “Ezzthetic,” and Schaphorst’s own “Take Back the Country” and “Mbira.”
February 8 at 7:30 p.m.
City Winery, Boston
Kat Edmonson made a splash at Scullers Jazz Club in Boston several years ago with her combination of stage-wise charm and wit and unique musicality and has been making regular stops in town ever since. The Houston-born singer (who made her bones performing in an Austin steakhouse) has a core repertoire in the American Songbook (including songs drawn from American films), but she can go anywhere, whether interpreting those chestnuts or partnering with Lyle Lovett or penning her own winning pop songs (you might remember her song “Lucky” or her appearance in Woody Allen’s “Café Society”).
February 8 at 7:30 p.m.
Jordon Hall, Boston
Saxophonist, flutist, and composer Anna Webber writes meticulously detailed pieces that draw as much from free jazz as from the classical procedures of Reich, Glass, Riley, and others. The Guggenheim fellow, now co-chair of the New England Conservatory jazz studies department, performs in this residency concert with NEC students and her next-level Simple Trio, with pianist Matt Mitchell and drummer John Hollenbeck. It’s free, but tickets are required. Get them here.
February 9 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Kurt Rosenwinkel — an astonishingly adept and wide-ranging guitarist and, sometimes, vocalist — comes to the Regattabar with what appears to be a classic jazz setup, a trio with bassist Alex Claffy and drummer Joe Farnsworth.
Wayne Escoffery Quartet
February 9 at 7 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston
Tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery is joined by an exceptional band: pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Ugonna Okegwo, and drummer Mark Whitfield Jr.
Fernando Brandão Quartet
February 10 at 5 p.m.
Harvard-Epworth Church, Cambridge, Mass.
For a couple of decades, the flutist Fernando Brandão has been a gem of the Boston-area Brazilian music scene. He’s joined in this free program from the Celebrity Series of Boston by pianist Maxim Lubarsky, bassist Fernando Huergo, and drummer Gen Yoshimura. RSVP here.
— Jon Garelick
Ilyon Woo in conversation with Anna Kuchment – Porter Square Books
Master Slave Husband Wife
January 30 at 7 p.m.
“With three epic journeys compressed into one monumental bid for freedom, Master Slave Husband Wife is an American love story — one that would challenge the nation’s core precepts of life, liberty, and justice for all — one that challenges us even now.”
Jill McCorkle at Harvard Book Store
Old Crimes: Stories
January 30 at 7 p.m.
“Jill McCorkle, author of the New York Times bestselling Life After Life and the widely acclaimed Hieroglyphics, brings us a breathtaking collection of stories that offers an intimate look at the moments when a person’s life changes forever.
“Old Crimes delves into the lives of characters who hold their secrets and misdeeds close, even as the past continues to reverberate over time and across generations. And despite the characters’ yearnings for connection, they can’t seem to tell the whole truth. In ‘Low Tones,’ a woman uses her hearing impairment as a way to guard herself from her husband’s commentary. In ‘Lineman,’ a telephone lineman strains to connect to his family even as he feels pushed aside in a digital world. In ‘Confessional,’ a young couple buys a confessional booth for fun, only to discover the cost of honesty.”
Antonia Hylton at The Cambridge Public Library – Harvard Book Store
Madness: Race and Insanity in a Jim Crow Asylum
February 1 at 6:30 a.m.
Cambridge Public Library, Cambridge
Tickets are free or $31.88 with book
“In Madness, Peabody and Emmy award-winning journalist Antonia Hylton tells the 93-year-old history of Crownsville Hospital, one of the last segregated asylums with surviving records and a campus that still stands to this day in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. She blends the intimate tales of patients and employees whose lives were shaped by Crownsville with a decade-worth of investigative research and archival documents. Madness chronicles the stories of Black families whose mental health suffered as they tried, and sometimes failed, to find safety and dignity. Hylton also grapples with her own family’s experiences with mental illness, and the secrecy and shame that it reproduced for generations.”
Dr. Jen Gunter at The Brattle Theatre – Harvard Book Store
Blood: The Science, Medicine, and Mythology of Menstruation
February 2 at 6 p.m.
Tickets are $10 or $35 with book
“Most women, transgender, and non-binary people who menstruate can expect to have hundreds of periods in a lifetime. So why is real information so hard to find? Despite its significance, most education about menstruation focuses either on increasing the chances of pregnancy or preventing it. And while both are important for many people, those who menstruate deserve to know more about their bodies than just what happens in service to reproduction. At a time when charlatans, politicians, and social media are succeeding in propagating damaging misinformation with real and devastating consequences, Dr. Jen provides the antidote with science, myth busting, and no-nonsense facts.
“Not knowing how your body works makes it challenging to advocate for yourself. Consequently, many suffer in silence thinking their bodies are uniquely broken, or they turn to disreputable sources. Blood is a practical, empowering guide to what’s typical, what’s concerning, and when to seek care — recounted with expertise and frank, fearless wit that have made Dr. Jen today’s most trusted voice in gynecology.
“Dr. Jen answers all your period-related questions, including: What exactly happens during menstruation? How heavy is too heavy? How much should periods hurt? and provides essential information about topics.”
David Montero – brookline booksmith
The Stolen Wealth of Slavery
February 7 at 7 p.m.
Tickets are free or $40 with reserved book
“In this timely, powerful, investigative history, The Stolen Wealth of Slavery, Emmy Award-nominated journalist David Montero follows the trail of the massive wealth amassed by Northern corporations throughout America’s history of enslavement. It has long been maintained by many that the North wasn’t complicit in the horrors of slavery. The truth, however, is that large Northern banks — including well-known institutions like Citibank, Bank of New York, and Bank of America — were critical to the financing of slavery; that they saw their fortunes rise dramatically from their involvement in the business of enslavement; and that white business leaders and their surrounding communities created enormous wealth from the enslavement and abuse of Black bodies.
“The Stolen Wealth of Slavery grapples with facts that will be a revelation to many: Most white Southern enslavers were not rich — many were barely making ends meet — with Northern businesses benefiting the most from bondage-based profits. And some of the very Northerners who would be considered pro-Union during the Civil War were in fact anti-abolition, seeing the institution of slavery as being in their best financial interests, and only supporting the Union once they realized doing so would be good for business. It is a myth that the wealth generated from slavery vanished after the war. Rather, it helped finance the industrialization of the country, and became part of the bedrock of the growth of modern corporations, helping to transform America into a global economic behemoth.”
Craft on Draft: The Craft of Writing Sex Scenes – Porter Square Books
With Steve Almond, Aube Rey Lescure, Andrea Meyer, and Sara Shukla
February 13 at 7 p.m
“Nothing’s trickier than writing good sex. Join us as stellar teacher and author Steve Almond walks us through the pitfalls and delights of writing a truly memorable love scene, as he reads from his new craft book, Truth is the Arrow, Mercy is the Bow. Steve will be joined by Andrea Meyer (Room for Love), Sara Shukla (Pink Whales), and Aube Rey Lescure (River East, River West), reading steamy scenes from their own work, followed by no-holds barred discussion moderated by Michelle Hoover (Bottomland), Novel Incubator instructor, about how they wrote them without blushing.
“Consider this your Master Class in writing sex and love scenes that will keep your readers hot and bothered.”
— Matt Hanson
Margot Livesey in conversation with Allegra Goodman at the Harvard Book Store
The Road to Belhaven
February 6 at 7 p.m.
The latest novel from the New York Times best-selling author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy: “Growing up in the care of her grandparents on Belhaven Farm, Lizzie Craig discovers as a small child that she can see into the future. But her gift is selective — she doesn’t, for instance, see that she has an older sister who will come to join the family. As her “pictures” foretell various incidents and accidents, she begins to realize a painful truth: she may glimpse the future, but she can seldom change it.
“Nor can Lizzie change the feelings that come when a young man named Louis, visiting Belhaven for the harvest, begins to court her. Why have the adults around her not revealed that the touch of a hand can change everything? After following Louis to Glasgow, though, she learns the limits of his devotion. Faced with a seemingly impossible choice, she makes a terrible mistake. But her second sight may allow her a second chance.”
— Bill Marx