Coming Attractions: May 5 through 21 — 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.


A scene from Ghostlight, which opened this year’s IFFB Festival.

Independent Film Festival of Boston
Through May 8
Somerville Theatre, Brattle Theatre, Coolidge Corner Theatre

Now in its 21st year, the IFFB is offering another savvy selection of films chosen from Sundance, SXSW, and other fests around the country. Some of these films may be opening in theaters soon; for others, this may be an opportunity to see an under-the-radar film.

This year’s opening movie is Kelly O’Sullivan’s Ghostlight: when a construction worker unexpectedly joins a local theater’s production of Romeo and Juliet, the drama onstage starts to mirror his own life. “A beautifully woven tale on the constructive ways that life and art reflect, propel, and imitate each other” (Harper’s Bizarre). The festival closes with Thelma, which features June Squibb (Nebraska, About Schmidt) as a 93-year-old who, after being duped by a phone scammer pretending to be her grandson, sets out on a treacherous quest across the city to reclaim what was taken from her. The week will feature over 35 feature films, numerous shorts programs, and a student film showcase. Full list of Films

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul
May 9 at 7 p.m.
Coolidge Corner Theatre

The theater’s Big Screen Classics presents Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s update of Douglas Sirk’s 1955 film, All That Heaven Allows. In this version, a lonely widow meets a much younger Arab worker in a bar during a rainstorm. To their own surprise, and to the shock of their families, colleagues, and drinking buddies, they fall in love.

The film will be introduced by Arts Fuse film critic Gerald Peary, author of the new book Mavericks: Interviews with the World’s Iconoclast Filmmakers. There will also be a book signing.

A pistol packin’ gorilla is among the cast of characters in King of the Kongo.

King of the Kongo (1929)
May 11 at 6:30 p.m.
Somerville Theatre in Davis Square

This first sound serial stars Boris Karloff and it was designed to serve up a cliffhanger of an ending every 20 minutes. Historian/collector Eric Grayson painstakingly restored the film, working from 71 reels of film, 17 sound discs, three collections, and two film archives. He will be on hand to introduce the screening; he will be talking about the restoration process, assisted by stills and clips. Boris Karloff’s daughter, Sara, will also be on hand to answer questions and sign memorabilia. The film is three and a half hours with an intermission.

The theater will also be screening Karloff’s Son of Frankenstein & The Body Snatcher in 35mm. Full Karloff passes or individual tickets are available.

Long Live Film! The Art of Collecting
May 9-12
Brattle Theatre in Cambridge

This series features some distinctive selections of cinema, including a Rock’n’Roll Rarities Program (on 5/11), a lineup  that gathers film trailers, performances, shorts, and clips featuring some of rock’s biggest stars, starting with the British Invasion. Other selections include Doris Wishman’s long lost ‘questionable classic’ Bad Girls Go to Hell (5/11) and a special Boris Karloff Rarities screening (5/12) with an appearance by his daughter, Sara Karloff. And Special Premiere Screenings (5 /10 + 11) of Peter Flynn’s new documentary Film is Dead. Long Live Film!,  which “explores the vanishing world of private film collecting — an obsessive, secretive, often illicit world of basement film vaults, piled-high with forgotten reels, inhabited by passionate cinephiles devoted to the rescue and preservation of photochemical film. The result is a lively and loving tribute to the private film collector, a celebration of the fetishistic subculture of pre-video movie-love, and a timely reminder of the glories of analog film.”

Petite Maman
May 12 at 2:30 pm
Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Céline Sciamma’s (Portrait of a Lady on Fire ) magical film from 2021 takes a deep dive into a child’s imagination. Eight-year-old Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) has just bid adieu to her beloved grandmother for the last time. At her mother’s childhood home, she becomes quickly bored and goes off to play in the woods where she meets another eight-year-old, Marion. She also finds a house that looks exactly like grand-mère’s house, and Marion’s own mom looks exactly like Nelly’s grand-mère in her 50s.

Global Cinema Film Festival of Boston
May 17 – 19
Capitol Theatre, 204 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington

Global Cinema Film Festival of Boston spotlights independent films from around the globe, spotlighting unconventional styles that explore the evolution of the narrative and documentary form. An online program will be made available for audiences to stream during the festival. Live and Online Schedule

A scene featuring Humphrey Bogart and Jimmy Cagney in The Roaring Twenties.

Fitzgerald & the Jazz Age
May 17 – 21
Brattle Theatre in Cambridge

The series, co-presented with the American Repertory Theater, will show a range of films from various eras that tap into The Jazz Age. They include Chaplin’s The Kid (1921), Fred Niblo’s The Three Musketeers (1921), Frank Borzage’s Three Comrades (1938), Elia Kazan’s The Last Tycoon, Damien Chazelle‘s Babylon, Joan Micklin Silver’s Bernice Bobs Her Hair (1976), Raoul Walsh’s The Roaring Twenties (1939), Chaplin’s The Immigrant (1917), Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), and King Vidor’s The Big Parade (1925).

Pick of the Week

The Sympathizer


Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel from 2015 is given an excellent new HBO series directed by Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, The Handmaiden, Decision to Leave). It was produced by Susan and Robert Downey Jr. The latter takes on several roles through the use of striking prosthetics. The series is a critique of American culture, part espionage thriller and part satire. It follows ‘The Captain’ (Hoa Xuande), a half-French, half-Vietnamese communist who, after leaving Vietnam during the fall of Saigon, works as a spy and assistant to a former pro-American Vietnamese General. Later he serves as a cultural adviser to an American film about the war and subsequently is recruited to return to Vietnam for a raid on the communists. I recommend reading the novel as well, which is an astutely observed story of clashing political beliefs and individual loyalties. (Arts Fuse Review)

— Tim Jackson

Classical Music

Pianist Marc-André Hamelin will be performing in Worcester this week. Photo: courtesy of the artist

Marc-André Hamelin in recital
Presented by Music Worcester
May 9, 8 p.m.
Mechanics Hall, Worcester

The Canadian pianist comes to Worcester with a varied recital comprising Ives’s Concord Sonata, Schumann’s Waldszennen, and Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit.

Mozart’s Requiem
Presented by Boston Cecilia and Lowell Chamber Orchestra
May 11, 8 p.m.
All Saints Parish, Brookline

The Cecilia/LCO pairing makes its way to Brookline, this time with the chorus’s Michael Barrett leading the performance.

The first page of George Crumb’s score for Vox Balaenae For Three Masked Players (Voice of the Whale).

Presented by Radius Ensemble
May 16, 8 p.m.
Pickman Hall, Cambridge

Radius Ensemble closes its 25th anniversary season with the world premiere of Elena Ruehr’s Broadway Boogie Woogie. The rest of the program consists of a pair of classics – Steve Reich’s New York Counterpoint and George Crumb’s Vox Balaenae – and the Chevalier de Saint-Georges’ Sonata for violin and viola.

— Jonathan Blumhofer

World Music and Roots

The high-energy Canadian group Polky is coming to Cambridge this week.

May 6
Club Passim, Cambridge

There’s a lot more to the Polish folk tradition than Americanized polka bands. Proof is this high-energy Canadian group which reaches way back to instruments like the knee fiddle while it still stretches its sound all the way to the present. There’s been a deserved buzz about their Canadian folk festival appearances, and they’re finally making it to New England.

Tami-Fest II
May 7, 6 to 11 p.m.
Sally O’Brien’s, Somerville

As we mentioned last month, beloved music venue bartender Tami Lee is in need of some help while recovering from some medical issues. Among the many artists contributing their time and talent to this benefit are Club d’Elf, Vapors of Morphine, Dub Apocalypse, and Jesse Dee. Attendees are asked to contribute to Tami’s GoFundMe for their admission.

Buddy Guy
May 6, The Wilbur, Boston
May 8, Chevalier Theater, Medford

Chicago blues icon Buddy Guy is now 87 and claims that this is his farewell tour. The guitarist’s live shows have been pretty hit or miss in recent decades. His 2022 The Blues Don’t Lie record was weighed down by too many special guests. Still, a glance at Guy’s recent setlists show that he’s doing a show heavy on Willie Dixon-penned blues classics, so there’s hope that he’s going out on top.

Sarah Shook and the Disarmers will perform at The Cut on May 10. Photo: courtesy of the artist

Sarah Shook and the Disarmers
May 10, 8:30 p.m.
The Cut, Gloucester

In a world full of soundalike Americana artists, Sarah Shook sounds like nobody else. Her new LP, Revelations, leaves the prosaic behind: this is storytelling from a country great who has the attitude of a rocker.

Peter Rowan
May 11, 8 p.m.
Spire Center for the Arts, Plymouth

Wayland’s gift to bluegrass, Peter Rowan cut his teeth playing with both Bill Monroe and Jerry Garcia. He’s still touring constantly. His 2022 Calling You From My Mountain found him still in good voice and in pure bluegrass territory with Billy Strings among other guests. From what we can tell from the publicity, he’ll be playing solo at the Plymouth appearance, which should allow lots of room for both stories and songs.

Diana Ross
May 16, 7:30 p.m.
Boch Center Wang Theater, Boston

Motown royalty Diana Ross’ 2022 Boch Center appearance vastly exceeded my expectations, thanks to its expansive setlist and a brilliant band propelled by longtime Stevie Wonder drummer Gerry Brown. And, of course, there were all the costume changes you’d expect from the great diva. She’s back for what is billed as her “Beautiful Love Performances” tour, but there’s little doubt that there will be plenty of Supremes and solo Ross disco hits performed as well.

The Soul Rebels will be at Somerville’s Arts at the Armory on May 16. Photo: courtesy of the artist

Soul Rebels with Dzidzor
May 16, 8 p.m.
Somerville’s Arts at the Armory

New Orleans brass badasses the Soul Rebels have become something of the house band for live hip-hop acts, but they’re just as vibrant when they do their own thing.

Nuggets Celebration feat. Lenny Kaye and Friends
May 17, 8 p.m.
The Cut, Gloucester

“It’s a nugget if you dug it,” was Lenny Kaye’s famous motto when he put together the original Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era compilation album in 1972. Nuggets quickly became the core canon of garage rock and influenced decades of musicians. Last year Kaye mounted a handful of all-star Nuggets tribute nights to celebrate the album’s 50th anniversary, and now he’s offering a New England edition in partnership with Gang of Four drummer Hugo Burnham. The cast includes Ted Leo, Bill Janovitz, Tanya Donelly, Barrence Whitfield, Greg Hawkes, Peter Buck of REM, and a North Shore legend who was making garage rock in the Nuggets era: Willie Alexander. The night before there’s a VIP event that includes a Q&A and hang with Kaye and a copy of his book Lightning Striking: Ten Transformative Moments in Rock & Roll.

Rockin’ Johnny Burgin with Sax Gordon Beadle
May 18, 8:30 p.m.
Boston Harbor Distillery

Blues stalwart Rockin’ Johnny Burgin has spent decades in the trenches backing all of the masters. He knows how to play a traditional Chicago blues shuffle like few other of his contemporaries. He’s doing a number of New England dates this month, the highlight of which should be this night with Boston hornman Sax Gordon Beadle. It’s hard to believe, but this is the first time these blues masters have ever shared a stage for the night.

— Noah Schaffer

Popular Music

Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Jenny Owen Youngs. Photo: Wiki Common

Jenny Owen Youngs with Emily Kinney
May 9 (doors at 6:30, show at 7)
Red Room at Cafe 939, Boston

11 full years passed between the releases of 2012’s An Unwavering Band of Light and last year’s Avalanche. However, Youngs was hardly inactive during that time, releasing several EPs and becoming the co-host of podcasts dedicated to two my and my wife’s favorite shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars. The singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist also co-wrote songs with Panic! At the Disco, Ingrid Michaelson, and Pitbull. Having already played Northampton and Portland, Youngs’s four-date New England tour comes to Boston on May 9 before wrapping up two days later in Portsmouth.

Emily Kinney, familiar to many for her roles on many television shows (most notably The Walking Dead), will perform material from the recording career that she has sustained since 2011.

Rickie Lee Jones
May 11 (doors at 5:30/show at 7:30)
City Winery, Boston

Rickie Lee Jones kicked off her career in a big way in 1979 with her eponymous debut and single “Chuck E.’s in Love,” both of which contributed to her being named Best New Artist at the following year’s Grammys ceremony, where she was up for four awards. Her profile was maintained via her relationship with Tom Waits, the two of which Chelsea Spear called “the Duke and Duchess of Coolsville” in her Arts Fuse review of Jones’s 2021 memoir, Last Chance Texaco. (Here is my Arts Fuse interview with her about the book.) Jones won a Best Jazz Vocal Performance Grammy for a duet with Dr. John in 1990 and was up for the Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album honor (her eighth total nomination in seven different categories) for last year’s covers collection Pieces of Treasure. Her ambitious 2024 tour hits City Winery on May 11.

Psychedelic Porn Crumpets with Spoon Benders
May 12 (doors at 7/show at 8)
Royale, Boston

Psychedelic Porn Crumpets is a psychedelic (duh) rock band formed in Perth, Australia in 2014. Since 2017, they have released all of their LPs on their own label, What Reality? The most recent of these, Fronzoli, appeared last November, preceded by the singles “Nootmare (K-I-L-L-I-N-G) Meow!” and “(I’m a Kadaver) Alakazam,” which are also the first two songs on the album. (February saw the extraction of “Pillhouse (Papa Moonshine).”)

Fronzoli rests on a bed of psych rock, but is blanked and pillowed by heavy (maybe even speed) metal, acid rock, and acoustic folk. The lyrics reach the absurd heights of both the song titles and lines such as “Put the rail up my nostril perpendicular,” “I guess Chihuahuas look like chicken to a crocodile,” “I’m living like a Woody Allen comedy,” and “The moon burns my retinas.”

Overall, Fronzoli continues PPC’s shark-like forward motion. If the uninitiated can get past the band’s name, this is a fine place to start, and possibly enough to convince them to join longer-term fans at Royale on May 12.

Spoon Benders, a self-described “progressive psych-rock powerhouse” quartet from Portland, Oregon will kick off the festivities.

Bad Bad Hats will perform at the Brighton Music Hall on May 13. Photo: courtesy of the artist

Bad Bad Hats with pronoun
May 13 (doors at 6:30/show at 7:30)
Brighton Music Hall, Allston

Named after a character in the Madeline children’s book series, the Minneapolis-based trio Bad Bad Hats – founded by Kerry Alexander and Chris Hoge and including drummer Connor Davison – first appeared on my radar in 2019. Their tour in support of their second LP, Lightning Round, had them on a ticket at Brighton Music Hall with The Beths who (as anyone who has talked to me long enough for me to tell them) has been my favorite new band for the past six years. On May 14, they will headline the same venue to showcase their latest, self-titled effort.

Kerry Alexander’s easy-going songwriting style allows her indie pop compositions to sink in effortlessly, with “TPA” – the record’s first extracted single – serving as a fine example.

Boston-born, Berklee-educated, and Brooklyn-based one-woman band pronoun will warm up the headliner’s admirers.

Swans — an illustration by Phil Puleo.

Swans with Kristof Hahn
May 14 (doors at 6, show at 7)
Paradise Rock Club, Boston

In the second volume of his book Backstage & Beyond, Boston rock critic Jim Sullivan (click for my Arts Fuse interview), describes Swans as “one of the loudest and most ferocious [bands] in rock and one that often moves at a tortoise’s pace.” Despite the gentle acoustic picking of its opening track, last June’s The Beggar did nothing to render Sullivan’s observation obsolete. (Nor is his description of leader Michael Gira as “a fearsome, foreboding presence” in any danger.) And while Swans fan of any duration are used to REALLY long songs, Gira continues to challenge his audience this album’s 43:51 “The Beggar Lover,” whose length has no precedent – apart from live recordings – in Swans’s 40-year discography

Given that the album’s lead single was “Paradise Is Mine,” it is only appropriate that Gira and his band will own the Paradise Rock Club on May 14. Longtime Swan and solo artist Kristof Hahn will open.

Buck Meek with Jolie Holland
May 17 (doors at 7/show at 8)
Crystal Ballroom, Somerville

Given the praise heaped on Adrianne Lenker as the songwriter for Big Thief (click for The Arts Fuse’s coverage), it might surprise some to learn that she is not the lone talented songsmith in the group. Guitarist Buck Meek, who attended Berklee with Lenker, has flexed his musical muscles as a solo artist in ways that he could never do so as Lenker’s bandmate. 2023’s Haunted Mountain, Meek’s third full-length solo effort, is a very modern-sounding alt-country record that employs synths, steel guitar, and fiddle. As worthy of adulation as Lenker is, Haunted Mountain is another reason why Meek probably shouldn’t be relegated to the rare co-write with her.

Speaking of co-writers, Julie Holland is credited with Meek on five of the record’s 11 tracks and will open his May 17 performance at Crystal Ballroom.

Chris Smither with Peter Mulvey
May 18 (doors at 5:30/show at 7:30)
City Winery, Boston

Miami-born Chris Smither relocated from his childhood home of New Orleans to Cambridge in the late ‘60s on the advice of that city’s legendary folk artist Eric von Schmidt. Shortly thereafter, he began a recording career that would garner him two Outstanding Folk Act Boston Music Awards (1992, 2007) and is now in its 54th year. The May 3 release of All About the Bones drew kudos from publications in the US and UK whose primary foci include rock, pop, folk, and blues.  And while it bares all the marks of a Chris Smither record, it has as its engineer Justin Pizzoferrato, whose countless credits include indie and alternative acts such as Pixies, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., and Speedy Ortiz.

Joining Smither at his May 18 City Winery album release show will be Peter Mulvey, who was fired from a Boston Kinko’s location in 1991 before turning to T busking and soon embarking on a prolific career as a singer-songwriter.

Echo & the Bunnymen
May 20 (doors at 7/show at 8)
House of Blues, Boston

The force has definitely been with Echo & the Bunnymen in the month of May throughout their career. Lead singer Ian McCulloch celebrated his 65th birthday on May 5. Their second album, Heaven Up Here, is set to turn 43 on the 30th. Finally (though not exhaustively), the music-loving world was blessed with Ocean Rain, their fourth LP, on May 4, 1984. McCulloch joking called it “the greatest album of all time” in advance of its release, but has quite seriously called its centerpiece – “The Killing Moon” – “the greatest song ever written” in subsequent years. “[It] is more than just a song,” he elaborated. “It’s a psalm, almost hymnal … It’s my ‘To be or not to be’.” (I don’t reflexively agree with this assessment, but I also won’t dispute it.) This May – and June – sees the new wave Shakespeare and the band’s lifelong guitarist, Will Sergeant, on a North American Songs to Learn & Sing Tour, which stops at House of Blues on May 20.

— Blake Maddux

Americana breakout Tyler Childers will perform at Boston Calling. Photo: courtesy of the artist

Boston Calling Music Festival
May 24-26, roughly 1:30 to 11 p.m.
Harvard Athletic Complex, Allston

Memorial Day Weekend brings the season’s first big festival to town with three sprawling days of Boston Calling at Harvard’s athletic fields by Soldier’s Field Road. Headliners command much of each day’s buzz/budget. Chummy pop star Ed Sheeran last hit Gillette Stadium, Americana breakout Tyler Childers is suddenly a hot ticket, and the Killers return as a rock favorite. And the lineup’s second layer adds an unusual mix with Southern soul crooner Leon Bridges, Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio’s solo band, and Irish soul-rocker Hozier.

Khruangbin bolsters Saturday’s bill with its exotic psych-grooves. Yet Sunday may boast the most promising slate with hip-hop power broker Megan Thee Stallion, New Orleans’ energetic trad-rockers the Revivalists, Canadian indie-pop stalwarts Alvvays and rising blues guitarist Christone “Kingfish” Ingram.

The kids will have their way across the weekend with an undercard including mainstream pop upstarts Jessie Murph, Chappell Roan and “Mean Girls” star Renee Rapp. And the fest spotlights the local scene with more than 20 cross-genre artists, including singer/songwriter Madi Diaz, funk-rockers Bad Rabbits (alumni of the first Boston Calling in 2013 at City Hall Plaza), “America’s Got Talent”-elevated piano man Kieran Rhodes and folk outfit the Wolff Sisters.

— Paul Robicheau


COVID PROTOCOLS: Check with specific theaters.

A scene from Lyric Stage Company’s production of The Drowsy Chaperone. Photo: Mark S. Howard

The Drowsy Chaperone Music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison and book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar. Directed by Larry Sousa. Staged by the Lyric Stage at 140 Clarendon Street, 2nd Floor, Boston, through May 17.

According to the Lyric Stage press release, this revival will be an escapist treat: “A comfortable chair with an old record crackling away is the perfect cure for the ‘blues’ for a charming but lonely ‘Man in Chair,’ our guide into the world of the show-within-a-show, The Drowsy Chaperone. His favorite cast album from the Jazz Age comes to fizzy life complete with a self-admiring showgirl, her gin-soaked chaperone, a saucy Latin lover, a bumbling best man, a clueless soon-to-be groom, and a cornucopia of characters, from a befuddled producer to a dippy hostess and gangsters posing as pastry chefs. This bubbly love letter to musical theater sparkles with one showstopper after another, mix-ups, mayhem, and a wedding (or two).” Arts Fuse review

Mermaid Hour by David Valdes. Directed by Bridget Kathleen O’Leary. Staged by Moonbox Productions at Arrow Street Arts, 2 Arrow Street, Cambridge, through May 19.

The New England premiere of a script that Moonbox Productions says is “a funny coming-of-age story in which the parents, not the teenagers, need to learn how to change. For Pilar and Bird, parenting a trans tween is all about guessing how to get it right when they’re not even sure what that means — and it doesn’t help that they’re not on the same page. Vi just wishes they would keep up: she’s busy navigating her first crush on super-cool Jacob, obsessing over her favorite YouTube vlogger, and just about ready to make herself an internet sensation.”

Patrick O’Konis as Joe in Apollinaire Theatre Company’s Touching the Void. Photo: Danielle Fauteux Jacques

Touching the Void adapted by David Greig. Directed by Danielle Fauteux Jacques. Staged by Apollinaire Theatre Company at the Chelsea Theatre Works, 189 Winnisimmet St., Chelsea, through May 26.

According to Apollinaire Theatre Company, this script, based on Joe Simpson’s bestselling memoir turned BAFTA-winning film, “recounts Joe Simpson’s struggle for survival after an accident leaves him stranded with a shattered leg on Siula Grande mountain in the Peruvian Andes. His climbing partner, Simon Yates, attempts a near impossible rescue, but when Joe disappears over an ice cliff, Simon, battered by freezing winds and tethered to his injured partner, makes the heart-wrenching decision to cut the rope.”

Orpheus in the Overworld by Dante Gonzalez. Directed by Shira Helena Gitlin. Staged by Fresh Ink Theatre at the BCA Black Box Theatre, 539 Tremont St., Boston, through May 11.

This “romantic and queer reimagining of a classic” is, according to Fresh Ink Theatre director Shira Helena Gitlin, a “bright, glittery, moody, lovely amalgamation of queer and trans characters working to find their most authentic selves…. I’m so excited for people to watch this play and chip away at their own cognitive dissonance as we challenge binaries…. Centering and uplifting authentic trans stories is so incredibly important right now! We’re living in a very dangerous time for transgender and gender nonconforming people.”

A scene from Bluey’s Big Play. Photo: PhotoCo

Bluey’s Big Play, original story by Joe Brumm and music by Joff Bush. Presented by BBC Studios and Andrew Kay in association with Windmill Theatre Co. at the Boch Center Wang Theatre on May 18 and 19 at 11 a.m.

“When Dad feels like a little bit of Sunday afternoon time out, Bluey and Bingo have other plans! Join them as they pull out all of the games and cleverness at their disposal to get Dad off that bean bag.” This show is “a brand-new theatrical adaptation of the Emmy award-winning children’s television series.”

Morning, Noon, and Night by Kirsten Greenidge. Directed by Summer L. Williams. Staged by Company One at the Boston Center for the Arts, Plaza Theatre, 539 Tremont Street, Boston, through May 25.

The plot of this new play by an acclaimed local playwright: “Mia just wants her daughter to listen without talking back. Dailyn just wants her mom to quit being so judgmental. And they both just want everything to be perfect for when older sister Alex comes home for her birthday. But when a mysterious visitor from a digital dimension arrives on Mia’s doorstep, the very concepts of home and perfection are challenged.”

The Far Country by Lloyd Suh. Directed by Ralph B. Peña. Staged by Yale Rep at the Yale Repertory Theatre, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven, through May 18.

“In the wake of the Chinese Exclusion Act,” says Yale Rep, “an unlikely family carries invented biographies and poems of longing on an arduous journey from rural Taishan to Angel Island Detention Center, in hopes of landing in San Francisco. Intimate and epic, the script (a finalist for the 2023 Pulitzer Prize in Drama) weighs the true cost of selling the past for the hope of a brighter future.”

Kai Clifton (center) and the company of A Strange Loop. Photo: Maggie Hall Photography

A Strange Loop Book, music, and lyrics by Michael R. Jackson. Directed by Maurice Emmanuel Parent. Music directed by David Freeman Coleman. Staged by SpeakEasy Stage Company and Front Porch Arts Collective in the Wimberly Theatre in the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street, in Boston’s South End, through May 25.

This Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning musical exposes the heart and soul of Usher, a young artist grappling with desires, identity, and instincts he loves and loathes in equal measure. While tolerating a grinding job guiding families in and out of theater performances, the Black, queer writer’s inner thoughts turn to an artistic endeavor: writing a musical about a Black, queer writer writing a musical about a Black, queer writer. Hobbled by negative self-talk and hell-bent on breaking free from it, Usher wrestles with his thoughts (portrayed by a cast of talented actors) in an attempt to move past this ‘strange loop.'” Arts Fuse review

Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare. Directed by Marianna Bassham. Staged by the Actors’ Shakespeare Project in the Roberts Studio Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts, Calderwood Pavilion, 539 Tremont Street, Boston, May 10 through June 2.

Surprisingly, this is the ASP’s first production of the Bard’s tragedy in over a decade. The production stars Evan Taylor and Chloe McFarlane as the titular star-crossed lovers, as well as Artistic Director Christopher V. Edwards making his ASP acting debut as Lord Capulet.

W.H. Auden on Romeo and Juliet: “Romeo and Juliet don’t know each other, but when one dies, the other can’t go on living. Behind their passionate suicides, as well as their reactions to Romeo’s banishment, is finally a lack of feeling, a fear that the relationship cannot be sustained and that, out of pride, it should be stopped now, in death. If they become a married couple, there will be no more wonderful speeches — and that is a good thing, too. Then the real tasks of life will begin, with which art has surprisingly little to do. Romeo and Juliet are idolaters of each other, which is what leads to their suicides.”

Spiritus/Virgil’s Dance, written by and starring Dael Orlandersmith. Directed by Neel Keller. Presented at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre, 50 East Merrimack Street, Lowell, May 8 through 26.

According to the MRT publicity, this one-person show “explores one person’s longing for meaning. Latin for breath, “Spiritus” is often used figuratively to mean spirit. In [Orlandersmith’s solo piece] “the word takes on a metaphorical meaning for a soul on a quest. In conversation with Dante’s Divine Comedy, we meet Virgil in the middle of an ordinary life. With their father’s passing, Virgil reframes death and finds the extraordinary they’ve been searching for.”

Jennifer Mogbock in the role of the eponymous Toni Stone. Photo: Nile Hawver

Toni Stone, written and directed by Lydia R. Diamond. At the Huntington Theatre, 264 Huntington Ave, Boston, May 17 through June 16.

A drama inspired by the book Curveball: The Remarkable Story of Toni Stone. According to Huntington Theatre publicity, the play “follows the experiences of Toni Stone, an ace ballplayer who knows her stats and has a great arm. Rejected by the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League because of her race, she becomes the first woman to play professional baseball on a man’s team in the Negro Leagues, shattering expectations and creating her own set of rules.”

— Bill Marx

Visual Arts 

The renowned Japanese collections at the Museum of Fine Arts, first of their kind in America and among the greatest in the world, have a backstory that is, if anything, even more extraordinary. It involves legendary names in Boston cultural history — William Sturgis Bigelow, Ernest Fenollosa, Edward Sylvester Morse —  scholars and naturalists who, with the authorization of the Japanese government, spent years in Japan traveling to previously hidden places and studying and collecting traditional Japanese art. It was a time when the Japanese themselves were rejecting their own cultural traditions in favor of Western fashions. As collectors, Morse specialized in ancient ceramics, Fenollosa in paintings, and Bigelow in armor. The three returned to Boston with thousands of works that they donated to the MFA.

A cultural bridge from the Japanese side, Okakura Kakuzo, author of the classic Book of Tea, worked with Fenollosa to repair damaged Buddhist temples and art and, at the invitation of Bigelow, came to the MFA, where he became curator of Japanese and Chinese art in 1910.

Long-time Bostonians may distantly remember the Japanese galleries at the MFA as a treasure-filled time warp, perhaps a bit dusty, trapped in a distant corner of the museum, whose monk-like curators were rarely seen in public. That era comes to a definitive end on May 11, when the museum opens its renovated Arts of Japan galleries. The facilities for display of the highlights of the museum’s 100,000 Japanese art objects include a renewed Japanese Temple Room (first opened in 1909), an adaptation of a traditional tea room, gallery spaces for painting, sculpture, decorative arts, swords, No drama masks and robes, netsuke carvings, and ukiyo-e prints from the museum’s vast holdings. Multi-media displays will explore Japanese dramatic and performance forms, including No drama.

Castellani, micromosaic lion brooch, about 1870. Gold and glass (micromosaic). Gift of Susan Beth Kaplan. Photo: MFA

Another collection showing off new digs at the MFA this month is jewelry. Long Balkanized into different departments and overshadowed by more monumental art works by celebrated artists, the MFA’s jewelry holdings are, in fact, outstanding and full of “hidden gems.” Beyond Brilliance: Jewelry Highlights from the Collection, which opens in a newly renovated gallery on May 18, features over 150 objects spanning 4000 years of creative adornment, from ancient Egypt to modern celebrity houses like Tiffany, Bulgaria, Chanel, and Dior to designs by contemporary artisans.

In the later decades of the 20th-century, the Studio Glass Movement, especially in the United States, established glassmakers as full-fledged artists, capable of using virtuosic techniques to create works of astonishing originality and sometimes shocking beauty. Monumental glass works by key studio glass movement figures like Dale Chihuly can now be found in major art museums, concert halls, and even casinos.

The 2022 gift to the Peabody Essex Museum of an important and diverse collection of contemporary glass by the New York collectors Carl and Betty Pforzheimer was a major addition to the museum’s important historic glass collection. Studio Glass, opening May 18, selected from the Pforzheimer gift, presents work by more than 40 leading glass artists from the 20th and 21st centuries.

Set in rolling hills outside the college town of Williamstown, Massachusetts, the sprawling, 140-acre rural campus of the Clark Art Institute, or “The Clark” as it now styles itself, is one of the most delightful places in New England to see art in the warmer months of the year. Accordingly, the Clark often holds its most important exhibitions in the summer, when bands of culture-loving tourists roam the Berkshire Hills.

Kathia St. Hilaire, Caco: Rosalvo Bobo,, 2023. Reduction linocut in oil-based ink on canvas. Photo:  Guillaume Ziccarelli

Set apart on Stone Hill and reached by car, hiking trails, or a shuttle bus, the Clark’s Lunder Center is a self-contained museum with galleries, a cafe, and terraces with views of the Green Mountains of Vermont. Opening there on May 11 is Kathia St. Hilaire: Invisible Empires, an exhibition of unorthodox “prints” made with up to fifty layers, illustrating narratives in Haitian history and the Haitian diaspora, printed with carved linoleum blocks and collaged with materials that can include paper, paint, banknotes, banana stickers, and even skin lightening cream packaging. The child of Haitian immigrants, St. Hilaire explains that the “invisible empires” of the exhibition title refers to the long history of imperialist intervention in the Caribbean that still lingers in subtle ways today.

Machining, in which a cutting tool removes material from a “workpiece,” usually metal, to create a machine part or fitting, has a long and important history in American manufacturing. Today the cutting is often controlled by computer. Sculptor Chris Bathgate, self-taught as a machinist, is so entranced by the skill that he wants to raise machining to an art form. Using handmade tools, automated machines, and hand finishing, he explores the spaces between art, craft, and the industrial— rich territory in the history of modernism. Bathgate’s first solo exhibition, Chris Bathgate: The Machinist Sculptor, opens at the Fuller Museum of Craft on May 18. Included are over fifty works— small- and large-scale pieces and technical drawings and “touchable objects.”

Julia Salinger, Ready, Set, Go, 2022, Drawing on paper, ink, pencil, crayon, pain. Photo: courtesy of the Provincetown Art Association

The Provincetown Art Association and Museum, whose existence is deeply connected with the long history of the town’s role as a summer art colony, is another institution that comes alive again with the tourist season. Julia Salinger: The Insistence of Memory opens there on May 10. Trained as an art historian, Salinger worked at art museums and managed “high concept” music performers like Laurie Anderson before devoting her time to her own work, starting in 1999. A poet and actress as well as an artist, her work, which moves through several media, explores the mysteries and demands of remembering.

— Peter Walsh


Soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome will performing at Lilypad this week.

Sam Newsome
May 9 at 7:30 p.m.
Lilypad, Cambridge

Soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome opens this show with his specialty: a solo saxophone recital. After which he will join pianist Steve Lantner, bassist Brittany Karlson, and drummer Eric Rosenthal for a quartet set.

The Cookers
May 10 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston

Hard-bop supergroup the Cookers (they take their name from a famous Freddie Hubbard live session) return to Scullers for two shows: tenor sax Craig Handy, alto sax Donald Harrison, trumpeter Eddie Henderson, bassist Cecil McBee, pianist George Cables, and trumpeter music director David Weiss. All the band members contribute tunes.

Makanda Project
May 11 at 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
Boston Public Library, Roxbury Branch, Boston

Special guest trombonist Craig Harris joins the Makanda Project for the last in the spring season of free concerts at the Roxbury Branch BPL. The project, the brainchild of pianist and arranger John Kordalewski, is dedicated to the legacy of Boston-born composer and multi-instrumentalist Makanda Ken McIntyre (1931-2001). The band also includes alto saxophones Kurtis Rivers and Seth Meicht; tenor saxes Sean Berry and Temidayo Balogun; baritone sax Charlie Kohlhase; trumpets Jerry Sabatini and Haneef Nelson; trombones Alfred Patterson and Richard Harper; baritone trombone Bill Lowe; bassist Avery Sharpe; and drummer Yoron Israel.

Vocalist Gabrielle Stravelli. Photo: courtesy of the artist

Gabrielle Stravelli
May 11 at 7 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston

Props to singer Gabrielle Stravelli: Her version of the Gershwins’ “They All Laughed” (from her new Beautiful Moons Ago) actually made me laugh with the sheer wit of its unforced swing and lyrical command. She celebrates the release of the new disc with her longtime trio mates, pianist Michael Kanan and bassist Pat O’Leary. The disc includes all manner of lesser-played jazz and pop standards.

Brazilian Night
May 11 at 7:30 p.m.
Regattabar, Cambridge

This looks like a promising double-bill of Boston area bands digging deep into samba, bossa, and multiple varieties of Brazilian jazz and regional folk forms (forró, ijexá, coco). Receita de Samba (“recipe for samba,” from the choro by Jacob do Bandolim) includes bandleaders Anna Borges (vocals) and Bill Ward (piano), plus bassist Fernando Huergo, drummer Mark Walker, and percussionist Gabriel Meireles. The second band on the bill, the Henrique Eisenmann Trio, includes Huergo and Walker as well as the São Paulo-born composer on piano.

Jessica Pavone (center) with the J. Pavone String Ensemble. Photo: Josiah Cuneo

Point01Percent: Jessica Pavone
May 14 at 7:30 p.m.
Lilypad, Cambridge

The always provocative Point01 Percent series this month offers a rare Boston appearance by violist Jessica Pavone and her String Ensemble. Pavone has been a regular on New York’s avant-garde scene for more than two decades, playing with the likes of Mary Halvorson, Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill, and others, as well as releasing CDs under her own name. A sample track from her new album with the String Ensemble (Reverse Bloom, out May 5) shows off her uncommon lyricism and tart, modernist aplomb. But there’s plenty of other stuff in her discography for you to root through, including last year’s Clamor. Though it isn’t advertised as such, the proximate date of this show to the CD release of Reverse Bloom makes this a nominal CD-release party. So, show up! And savor. Pavone and her ensemble (violinist Aimee Niemann and violinist/violist Abby Swidler) precede a quartet set by Point01 Percent curators Pandelis Karayorgis (piano) and Eric Rosenthal (drums) with saxophonist Eric Barber and bassist Brittany Karlson.

Dave Bryant “Third Thursday”
May 16 at 8 p.m.
Harvard-Epworth Church, Cambridge, Mass.

Keyboardist and composer Dave Bryant has been cooking up multiple provocative lineups for his “Third Thursday” concerts at the Harvard-Epworth Church. Now, one of those sessions has produced a CD, Wire and Bone. Bryant is reconvening that formidable crew for this CD-release show: bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma and guitarist Kenny Wessel (both from Bryant’s years with Ornette Coleman); saxophonist George Garzone, guitarist Eric Hofbauer, and drummer Chris Bowman.

May 16 at 8 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston

Bassist Dave Zinno and saxophonist Mike Tucker lead this band which, as their lore has it, was formed at a Rio de Janeiro rooftop party in 2016. The rest of the band includes musical polymaths Eric “Benny Bloom, trumpet; Leo Genovese, piano; and Mark Walker, drums.

Geni Skendo and Michael Harrist
May 18 at 7 p.m.
Kaji Aso Studio – Institute for the Arts, Boston

During his years in Boston, flutist Geni Skendo made a specialty of the shakuhachi, the Japanese end-blown bamboo flute — one of many instruments in his arsenal —using it as an evocative voice in improvised music of many stripes. Now based in Birmingham, Alabama, Skendo returns to town with another player with Boston ties, bassist Michael Harrist, for this show at the Kaji Aso Institute. They’ll be performing pieces inspired by Japanese folk songs (minyo) “infused with modal improvisations.”

Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra
May 18 at 8 p.m.
Peabody Hall, Parish of All Saints, Dorchester, MA

One of the treasures of the Boston scene, the Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra (b. 1985), plays this Mandorla Music Series show. Expect pieces by resident composers David Harris, Darrell Katz, Bob Pilkington, and Mimi Rabson, covering everything from swing and funk to free. All played by a superb cast of Boston-area musicians.

— Jon Garelick

Author Events

Picture + Panel at Aeronaut Brewing: Mental Health with Cara Bean + Jonell Joshua – Porter Square Books
May 6 at 7 p.m.
Free with $15 suggested donation

“Porter Square Books is excited to collaborate with the Boston Comic Arts Foundation (BCAF) and Aeronaut Brewing to present the series Picture + Panel. This month, Picture + Panel opens up a profound and compassionate conversation about mental health between Cara Bean and Jonell Joshua. Graphic Medicine advocate Matthew Noe will moderate.

“Picture + Panel is a monthly conversation series that brings fantastic graphic novel creators to the Greater Boston area. Discover terrific authors and fascinating stories that combine text and art through conversational confabulation. Produced in partnership by Aeronaut Brewing, Porter Square Books, and the Boston Comic Arts Foundation, Picture + Panel provides thought-provoking discussions for adults about this unique form of expression.”

Jamaica Kincaid at the Cambridge Public Library – Harvard Book Store

An Encyclopedia of Gardening for Colored Children
May 9 at 6 p.m. (Doors at 5:30)
Tickets are $28.69 with book, free without

“In this hard-hitting, witty, deeply original book, the renowned novelist Jamaica Kincaid offers an ABC of the plants that define our world and reveals the often brutal history of colonialism behind them. Kara Walker, one of America’s greatest visual artists, illustrates each entry with provocative, brilliant, enthralling, multilayered watercolors.

There has never been a book like An Encyclopedia of Gardening for Colored Children — inventive, surprising, and telling — about what our gardens reveal about the truth of history.”

Mary Dearborn in conversation with Mary Baine Campbell – Porter Square Books
Carson McCullers: A Life
May 9 at 7 p.m.

“She was born Lula Carson Smith in Columbus, Georgia. Her dream was to become a concert pianist, though she’d been writing since she was sixteen and the influence of music was evident throughout her work. As a child, she said she’d been “born a man.” At twenty, she married Reeves McCullers, a fellow southerner, ex-soldier, and aspiring writer (“He was the best-looking man I had ever seen”). They had a fraught, tumultuous marriage lasting twelve years and ending with his suicide in 1953. Reeves was devoted to her and to her writing, and he envied her talent; she yearned for attention, mostly from women who admired her but rebuffed her sexually. Her first novel—The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter—was published in 1940, when she was twenty-three, and overnight, Carson McCullers became the most widely talked about writer of the time.

While McCullers’s literary stature continues to endure, her private life has remained enigmatic and largely unexamined. Now, with unprecedented access to the cache of materials that has surfaced in the past decade, Mary Dearborn gives us the first full picture of this brilliant, complex artist who was decades ahead of her time, a writer who understood—and captured—the heart and longing of the outcast.”

Isaac Arnsdorf at Harvard Book Store – Harvard Book Store
Finish What We Started: The MAGA Movement’s Ground War to End Democracy
May 10 at 7 p.m.

Washington Post national political reporter Isaac Arnsdorf has spent years at the forefront of reporting on this growing movement. Drawing on extensive, exclusive on-the-ground reporting around the country, and deepened by historical context, Arnsdorf has produced the defining journalistic account of the origins, evolution and future of the MAGA movement. Combining critical and rigorous reporting with the intimacy and complexity of a novel, this book is unlike any other in the decade since Donald Trump convulsed and transformed American politics.

Finish What We Started tells the story of the ordinary Americans driving this change, who they are and where they came from, what motivates them, and what their movement means for the survival of American democracy.”

Colm Tóibín at The Brattle Theatre – Harvard Book Store
Long Island: A Novel
May 14 at 6 p.m. (Doors at 5:30)
Tickets are $38 with book, $12 without

Long Island is about longings unfulfilled, even unrecognized. The silences in Eilis’ life are thunderous and dangerous, and there’s no one more deft than Tóibín at giving them language. This is a gorgeous story of a woman alone in a marriage and the deepest bonds she rekindles on her return to the place and people she left behind, to ways of living and loving she thought she’d lost.”

Miranda July at The Brattle Theatre – Harvard Book Store
All Fours: A Novel
May 15 at 6 p.m.
Brattle Theatre, Cambridge MA
Tickets are $38 including book

“A semi-famous artist announces her plan to drive cross-country, from LA to New York. Twenty minutes after leaving her husband and child at home, she spontaneously exits the freeway, beds down in a nondescript motel, and immerses herself in a temporary reinvention that turns out to be the start of an entirely different journey.

Miranda July’s second novel confirms the brilliance of her unique approach to fiction. With July’s wry voice, perfect comic timing, unabashed curiosity about human intimacy, and palpable delight in pushing boundaries, All Fours tells the story of one woman’s quest for a new kind of freedom. Part absurd entertainment, part tender reinvention of the sexual, romantic, and domestic life of a forty-five-year-old female artist, All Fours transcends expectation while excavating our beliefs about life lived as a woman. Once again, July hijacks the familiar and turns it into something new and thrillingly, profoundly alive.”

Temim Fruchter in conversation with Aube Rey Lescure – Porter Square Books
City of Laughter
May 17 at 7 p.m.

“An ambitious, delirious novel that tangles with queerness, spirituality, and generational silence, City of Laughter announces Temim Fruchter as a fresh and assured new literary voice. The tale of a young queer woman stuck in a thicket of generational secrets, the novel follows her back to her family’s origins, where ancestral clues begin to reveal a lineage both haunted and shaped by desire.

Ropshitz, Poland, was once known as the City of Laughter. As this story opens, an 18th century badchan, a holy jester whose job is to make wedding guests laugh, receives a visitation from a mysterious stranger–bringing the laughter the people of Ropshitz desperately need, and triggering a sequence of events that will reverberate across the coming century. In the present day, Shiva Margolin, recovering from the heartbreak of her first big queer love and grieving the death of her beloved father, struggles to connect with her guarded mother, who spends most of her time at the local funeral home.

A student of Jewish folklore, Shiva seizes an opportunity to visit Poland, hoping her family’s mysteries will make more sense if she walks in the footsteps of her great-grandmother Mira, about whom no one speaks. What she finds will make her question not only her past and her future, but also her present.”

Alice Rothchild – brookline booksmith
Old Enough to Know
May 20 at 7 p.m.

Old Enough to Know is a novel for the middle grade: “Being the new kid is always hard, but try starting the year with a name like Mohammed Omar Mohammed Abu Srour, with a homemade lunch of humus and za’atar. On top of that, on the very first day of school, a kid tells his older hijab-wearing sister to ‘go back where you came from.’ Mohammed and his sister love their grandmother, but she thinks her stories about life in Palestine will help them with their problems. What does Grandmother’s ancient history have to do with classroom bullies? She never learned to read and Mohammed can’t even find Palestine on a map. Feels like fourth grade’s going to last forever.”

Shefali Luthra at Harvard Book Store
Undue Burden: Life and Death Decisions in a Post-Roe America
May 21 at 7 p.m.

In Undue Burden, “reporter Shefali Luthra traces the unforgettable stories of patients faced with one of the most personal decisions of their lives. Outside of Houston, there’s a 16-year-old girl who becomes pregnant well before she intends to. A 21-year-old mother barely making ends meet has to travel hundreds of miles in secret to access care in another state. A 42-year-old woman with a life-threatening condition wants nothing more than to safely carry her pregnancy to term, but her home state’s abortion bans fail to provide her with the options she needs to make an informed decision. And a 19-year-old trans man struggles to access care in Florida as abortion bans radiate across the American South.

Before, it was a common misconception that abortion restrictions affected only people in certain states, but left one’s own life untouched. Now, patients forced to travel to access care creates a domino effect across the entire country. As the landscape of abortion rights continues to shift, the experiences of these patients — those who had to cross state lines to seek life-saving care, who risked everything they had in pursuit of their own bodily autonomy, and who were unable to plan their reproductive future in the way that they deserved — illustrates how fragile the system is, and how devastating the consequences can be.”

— Matt Hanson

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