Arts Fuse critics select the best in film, dance, visual art, theater, music, and author events for the coming weeks.
February 23 at 2:00 p.m.
Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline, Boston, MA
Its time has come: selections culled from hundreds of hours of individual submissions, along with sourced animations, music videos, and, of course, the usual internet powerhouses. CatVideoFest also raises money for cats in need through partnerships with local cat charities, animal welfare organizations, and shelters that serve cats in the area.
Iranian New Wave
February 25 at 10 a.m.
At the Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline, MA
Professor Andre Puca will take an in-depth look at the Iranian New Wave, a movement that occurred in the midst of great sociopolitical upheaval. Of course, the tensions are ongoing. Iran’s film industry has always been state regulated, but in 1978 and ’79 the arrival of the Islamic revolution made it increasingly difficult for New Wave directors to express their vision of an Islamic culture free from the strictures and “guidance” of a dogmatic, government-enforced censorship code. Please note that each class session will run approximately three hours.
My First Film
February 24 at 7 p.m.
Brattle Theater in Cambridge, MA
After a brief fall tour across the US, My First Film is finally traveling to the greater Boston area. A blend of film and performance by the filmmaker Zia Anger, whose “My Last Film,” from 2015, is a riotous “personal-cinemapocalypse.” This film is unsparing “about the milieu of independent filmmaking, its economy, its judgments, and its prejudices, and the personal and artistic compromises into which it coaxes its supplicants. She presents, with embarrassed derision, her crowdfunding video for “Gray” and details the process of pitching a project to a well-funded Web site that was seeking videos about women and reveals its male executives’ outrageous reaction to her idea (and her own exquisite comeback). The film looks at the “vastly imaginative and politically trenchant connection between the place of women in the independent-filmmaking world and in the world at large.” (Richard Brody)
Through March 1
Museum of Fine Arts in Boston
The dreamy detachment of French director Bertrand Bonello (Nocturama) has invited accusations of glibness … and worse. Zombi Child, his latest, is “a scintillating act of discretion. The connection between ritual and revenge in Haitian custom and race and class hierarchies in contemporary France gets a deliberate teasing out here.” (NY Times) “The film taps into Voodoo culture and addresses important issues that still linger with colonialism to offer a unique take on the zombie genre that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.” (spoilertv.com) Arts Fuse review
Meow Wolf: Origin Story
February 25 at 7 p.m.
Bright Family Screening Room, The Paramount Center 559 Washington St. Boston
“A group of artists in Santa Fe, NM become a DIY collective called Meow Wolf. Their immersive, large-scale exhibitions crack opened a profitable niche in the arts industry, even as their social mission is challenged by the demands of rapid success. When they spark the interest of George R. R. Martin and receive his support to take over an old bowling alley, Meow Wolf builds a massive exhibition with over 140 artists working at a breakneck pace. With the wild success of House of Eternal Return project, Meow Wolf now faces its own internal turmoil as it begins to change the lives of creatives everywhere.” Discussion with co-director of the documentary, Jilann Spitzmiller, to follow. All Bright Lights screenings are free and open to the public.
Light From Light
February 28 – March 1
Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, MA
Premier of this eerie, non-violent horror film. Gifted with sometimes-prophetic dreams and a lifelong interest in the paranormal, Shelia (Marin Ireland) is asked to investigate a potential haunting at a Tennessee farmhouse. There she meets Richard (Jim Gaffigan), a recent widower who believes his wife may still be with him. The investigation that ensues, which pulls in Shelia’s son Owen and his classmate Lucy, forces them to confront the mysteries in their own lives.
March 1 at 7 p.m.
March 7 at 9 p.m.
March 2 at 7 p.m.
March 8 at 5 p.m.
The Harvard Film Archives is screening the movies of Kelly Reichardt in anticipation of her latest film, First Cow. Reichardt is a master of minimalist films that are driven by brilliant casting and extraordinary period detail. She has been called “poet laureate of the Pacific Northwest” because of her humanist stories of working class struggle and survival.
Certain Women tells three barely connected stories of a trio of strong-willed women (Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern, Michelle Williams) who strive to forge their own paths amidst the wide-open plains of the American Northwest: a lawyer who finds herself contending with both office sexism and a hostage situation; a wife and mother whose determination to build her dream home puts her at odds with the men in her life; and a young law student who forms an ambiguous bond with a lonely ranch hand. It also features Lily Gladstone and Jared Harris.
Meek’s Cutoff sets its gaze not on a single outsider but many, a triplet of families led by narcissistic trail guide Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood), a charismatic but increasingly untrustworthy figure who may or may not have the slightest clue where he and the others are headed. A journey initially projected to last two weeks takes longer than a month, testing not only the settlers’ patience but their chances for survival.
February 29 through March 4.
Somerville Theater in Davis Square
In a hotel room, two men celebrate Donald Trump’s unexpected victory on election night. Throughout the evening, a diverse set of characters wander in and out, challenging the guys’ convictions. When a couple of headstrong escorts enter the picture, events take an unexpectedly shocking turn. Through satire, the film probes issues of political identity, free speech, female culpability in Trump’s election, liberal hypocrisy, voter apathy, tribalism, misogyny in Islamic culture, xenophobia, gun control and, of course, toxic masculinity. Starring Dylan Baker.
— Tim Jackson
What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael
through February 28.
Kendell Square Cinema, Cambridge, MA
I will be writing on this documentary, whose hagiographical take on the problematic Kael demands a nuanced response. Here is the documentary’s pitch: “The New Yorker’s film critic Pauline Kael (1919-2001), often considered the most influential of all time, battled to make her mark—fueled by brilliance, unshakable self-confidence, a complicated past, and a deep love of the arts. In a field that embraced few female critics, Kael was charismatic, controversial, witty and discerning. Her turbo-charged prose famously championed the New Hollywood Cinema of the late 1960s and ’70s (Bonnie and Clyde, Nashville, Carrie, Taxi Driver) and the work of major European directors (François Truffaut, Bernardo Bertolucci), while mercilessly panning some of the biggest studio hits (The Sound of Music, Midnight Cowboy, Dirty Harry).” Arts Fuse review
March 8 at 2:30 p.m.
At the Museum of Fine Arts Boston
Released a year after Stalin died, this looks like an eyebrow-raising if colorful excursion into female empowerment, Socialist Realism variety. “In honor of International Women’s Day, MFA Film and the Ballets Russes Arts Initiative present the beloved Soviet comedy from 1954, Tiger Girl, about a young woman who steadfastly pursues her dream of becoming a tiger tamer. Co-directed by a woman, the film also marked the screen debut of legendary Soviet tiger tamer, Margarita Nazarova. The screening also continues the MFA’s ongoing series exploring the film scores of Russian/Polish-Jewish composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg. Followed by a Q and A with David Patterson, professor of Music, UMass Boston; and Anna Winestein, executive director, Ballets Russes Arts Initiative.
— Bill Marx
February 26 at 7:30 (sold out) and 10 p.m.
Regattabar, Cambridge, MA.
Composer, guitar god, and one of the most inventive living musicians of any kind, Bill Frisell convenes his Harmony band with singer Petra Haden, cellist Hank Roberts, and guitarist/bassist Luke Bergman. Roberts and Bergman also help out on the vocals, and the material includes everything from Frisell originals to jazz standards, Stephen Foster, Elvis Costello, and Pete Seeger. Call it Americana, but it’s also Frisell’s sui generis sound world. The 7:30 show is sold out, so don’t sit on getting into that 10 p.m. show.
February 28 at 7:30 p.m.
Regattabar, Cambridge, MA.
Trumpeter Jason Palmer has become a lynchpin of Boston’s jazz scene, not only for his 15 years of leading the weekend house band at Wally’s, but as the on-call guy when bandleaders need someone who can play demanding music on short notice and not only “get it right,” but also bring something fresh and inventive to every chorus (just ask Noah Preminger, Mark Turner, or Jamie Baum). These days Palmer is stepping out front with his own music, including a new double-disc, The Concert: 12 Musings for Isabella, reflecting on the March 18, 1990, thefts at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. This show is from Palmer’s Upwards Mothers project, a collaboration with pianist Kevin Harris that is described as “a musical celebration that recognizes and honors the courage and strength of mothers who have lost their children to acts of violence in this community. Through a series of interviews with the mothers, Jason and Kevin composed pieces based on the musical phrases of the words from each mother (á la Hermeto Pascoal’s Aura Sound technique).” The band will also include bassist Ron Mahdi, drummer Tyson Jackson, and guitarist Raven Moran.
February 29 at 7:30 and 10 p.m.
Regattabar, Cambridge, MA.
Of all the latter-day proponents of the “Gypsy jazz” made famous by Django Reinhardt, guitarist Stephane Wrembel is one of the most inventive, matching fleet fretwork with idiosyncratic compositional approaches that take in the many worlds of jazz since Django (1910-1953). Following the release of his latest, The Django Experiment V, Wrembel comes to the Regattabar with guitarist Thor Jensen, violinist Daisy Castro, clarinettist/saxophonist Nick Driscoll, bassist Ari Folman- Cohen, and drummer Nick Anderson. (Note: The 7:30 show is sold out.)
John Kordalewski Trio
March 6 at 8 p.m.
New School of Music, Cambridge, MA.
Pianist, composer, and arranger John Kordalewski, probably best known for the Makanda Project, dedicated to the music of the late Makanda Ken McIntyre, here downscales to a trio, with bassist Wes Brown and drummer Royal Hartigann. Brown’s resume includes Earl “Fatha” Hines (!), Wadada Leo Smith, and Fred Ho, as well as being a regular with the Makanda Project and Hartigan’s ensemble Blood Drum Spirit. As for Hartigan, his mentors have included Max Roach and Ed Blackwell.
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah
March 6 and 7 at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston, MA.
The New Orleans trumpeter and composer Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah — a star pretty much since his days at Berklee College of Music — has consistently created music of social urgency and musical heft. He plays four shows with his band at Scullers. Always worth catching at least one of them.
Stephen Haynes’s Knuckleball
March 7 at 8 p.m.
The Lilypad, Cambridge, MA.
The distinguished avant-garde cornettist and activist Stephan Haynes fronts an impressive brass-heavy quintet, with trumpeter Herb Robertson, cornettist Taylor Ho Bynum, tubist Ben Staap, and drummer Eric Rosenthal.
— Jon Garelick
Joe Hunt (dm), with supporting players to be announced, on February 23 at 8:30 p.m at The Lilypad, 1353 Cambridge Street, Inman Square, Cambridge. Roy Haynes isn’t the only elder statesman drummer still making great music. Hunt is just a few years younger than Roy, and he plays monthly gigs at the Lilypad with musicians he knows and likes. Don’t take him for granted.
Charlie Kohlhase (as, ts, bari) & Explorers’ Club, w. Curt Newton (dm), others to be announced on February 26 at 730 p.m. at The Lilypad, 1353 Cambridge St., Inman Square, Cambridge, MA. This group, usually with two or three other horns in the front line along with Charlie, is billed by the Lilypad as “bebop,” and that’s their home ground, but don’t expect the music to be limited by genre. There’ll be plenty of stretching in unexpected directions, built on Charlie’s impressive book of originals.
Dave Holland (comp), Jim McNeely (arr), large ensemble composed of NEC faculty and students on February 27 at 7:30 p.m. at Jordan Hall, 290 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA. This evening, called “Cosmosis,” is a program of Holland’s great compositions expanded for big band in arrangements by McNeely. The arrangements were written originally for one of Europe’s crack jazz orchestras, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, so the musicianship will have to be top-notch. With a little luck, the composer himself may be coaxed to play a little bass.
Bobby McFerrin (vo) w. Meredith Monk (vo), Louis Cato (g, dm), Dave Worm (vo), Joey Blake (vo), The Singing Tribe (a capella ensemble) on March 1 at 3 p.m. at Symphony Hall, Boston, MA. Presented by Celebrity Series of Boston. Whether you consider him merely clever or a bona fide artist, Bobby McFerrin is an original, always striving for new horizons in the musical use of the human voice. This concert is part of a tour entitled “Circlesongs,” which suggests that the repertoire will draw from his 2017 CD of the same name. That project featured a 12-voice ensemble, which in this tour will probably be the Berklee a capella group The Singing Tribe. Two vocal soloists are billed alongside McFerrin, and multi-instrumentalist Louis Cato will be along for the ride. But the last-minute addition of avant-garde singer Meredith Monk means that this performance will hardly be predictable.
Raul Midón (g, vo) & Lionel Loueke (g, vo) on March 1 at 5 p.m. at the Shalin Liu Performance Center, Rockport, MA. Though both of their guitars will be amplified, Midón and Loueke are primarily players of the hollow-body instrument, and both are adept at setting up infectious strum-pulses over which they can improvise and sing. Lead vocal responsibilities will rest with Midón, who has a very appealing tenor and does some impressive mouth-trumpet stuff, too. Loueke’s African heritage and Midón’s occasional Spanish vocals will add some nice cross-cultural touches. Note the early start time.
— Steve Elman
Lucien Freud (1922-2011). grandson of the famous Viennese psychoanalyst, moved to Britain with his family as a child. He grew up there to become a deeply private, even evasive artist known for his intense, brutally honest portraits of family and friends. These were often nude and in unheroic, middle-aged proportions, painted in a thick, almost monochromatic impasto — haunting, serious images that some said harked back to his grandfather’s attempts to lay bare the human psyche. As a young artist in the 1940s and early ‘50s, Freud worked through German Expressionist and Surrealist-influenced phases. By the ’90s, he was among the most famous (and highest priced) of all European figurative artists, the focus of almost cult-like admiration.
The MFA’s Lucien Freud: The Self-Portraits (March 1 – May 25) promises to be one of the most important Boston exhibitions of the year. It focuses on one, sustained part of Freud’s career with 40 works — on canvas, paper, and etching plate, made from the ’40s to the early 21st century, depicting stages in Freud’s life and appearance from a young man in his twenties to an old one in his eighties. The decades-long engagement with his own image makes the show both a revealing exploration of the artist’s development as well as a chronicle of his gradual aging as a human being.
Born on the U.S. military base in Bitburg, Germany, to a Dutch mother and an American father and brought up in “Pennsylvania Dutch” country, Sterling Ruby is a “maximalist” artist whose untidy influences include urban graffiti, gangs, globalization, prisons, hip-hop, traditional American crafts, violence, and prisons, His 70-work comprehensive retrospective at the ICA Boston (February 25 through May 26) will be the artist’s first in an American museum setting. Sterling’s exploration of what the ICA calls “the repressed underpinnings of U.S. Culture” have made him “one of the most interesting artists to emerge this century,” according to the New York Times.
Trained as a chemist and medical doctor, Eliot Porter’s career as a photographer was launched by the legendary Alfred Stieglitz at his “An American Place” gallery in New York. He became a popular success with a coffee table book of images of the New England Woods published by the Sierra Club. Eliot Porter: All the Wild Places, at the Farnsworth Art Museum from February 29 through January 3, 2021, will explore Porter’s innovative color nature photography with lush images taken from Maine to China. The show also celebrates Porter’s life-long connection to Maine, which began with childhood trips to his family’s summer home on Great Spruce Head Island, just off shore from the museum.
Carlos Gariacoa’s elaborate video installation, Partitura, on view at the Peabody Essex Museum, March 8, 2020 through January 3, 2021, is made up of forty individual music stands — on each of which rests a score sheet covered with abstract drawings and a video tablet showing the performance of a single street musician.
This joyful, globalized collective concert includes, among others, a West African griot, an opera singer, an accordion player, and a classical chemist. Born in Havana, Gariacoa became a prominent Cuban artist during the years of deep depression in the ’90s. Here he seems to suggest that the culture of the 21st century will always have an international score.
Japan’s Edo Period (1603-1868) has no exact parallel in the rest of human history. Named for Edo Castle, seat of the ruling Tokugawa clan, and the city that grew up around it (now modern Tokyo), it was an era when Japan cut itself off from the outside world, banned almost all contact with foreigners, tried to eliminate war and internal conflict, and developed a rich and distinctly Japanese culture. The art of the Edo, with its bold forms, calculated simplicity, and exuberant compositions, strikes many Westerners as the most Japanese of all.
Painting Edo: Japanese Art from the Feinberg Collection (Harvard Art Museums, through July 26) is billed as the largest exhibition ever presented at Harvard’s three art museums. It will fill the special exhibitions gallery and spill into the research gallery, the teaching gallery, and the study gallery. The 120 works on view will explore all the types of painting the inventive Japanese created, including gilded folding screens, richly colored hanging scrolls, painted fans, and books, representing the range of popular and elite styles the period enjoyed, from the flashy art enjoyed by the dominant military elite to the refined designs favored by the old aristocracy. Arts Fuse review
— Peter Walsh
Roots and World Music
Sexta Forrozeira con Fabio Santana
At Samba Bar, 608 Somerville Ave, Somerville, MA
Rio-bred globe-hopping accordionist Santana brings his forro sound to Somerville. Dance lessons start at 9:15 p.m. before the band starts up.
At William E Reed Auditorium, 24 Washington St, Boston, MA
When reggae mainstay Tarrus Riley talked with the ArtsFuse in 2016 he was peaking with “Gimme Likkle One Drop,” one of his biggest hits. A key act in paving the way for today’s reggae revival, Riley has not slowed down, as recently proven by an even bigger track, the Konshens collaboration “Simple Blessings.” Riley’s Boston show will feature the impeccable Black Soil Band led by the renowned Dean Frasier. Any references to a 10 p.m. start should be ignored, and patrons will have to hope that Riley takes the stage early enough to fit his entire show in before the 2 a.m. curfew.
Barley Hoppers with Lynette and the Sundowners and DJ Easy Ed’s Record Hop
February 29 at 3 p.m.
At Midway Cafe, 3496 Washington St, Jamaica Plain, MA
Rhode Island’s impressive Barley Hoppers proffer a lively mix of rockabilly, honky tonk and surf. Lynette Lenker from the fondly remembered Stumbleweeds is now leading a new trio, Lynette and the Sundowners. The matinee will prove that a dance floor can be full even without a drummer on the bandstand.
King’s Highway featuring students from the Alpha Institute
March 4 at La Fabrica, Cambridge, MA
March 7 at Beehive, Boston, MA
Generations of reggae stars, from the Skatalites to Yellowman, got their start by learning their craft at the strict but loving Alpha Boy’s School in Kingston, Jamaica. Today, reggae artists around the world are giving back to what is now known as the Alpha Institute with a series of workshops and benefits for the March for Music Education organization. Last week, several members of the band King’s Highway went to teach and pick up some tips in Kingston. Now some current students from Alpha are coming to New England to show local students and musicians the future of Jamaican music. They’ll be sitting in during this pair of shows by King’s Highway, a band which explores reggae’s roots in ska, Caribbean jazz, and nyabinghi drumming.
— Noah Schaffer
Terry Kitchen, Janet Feld, Mara Levine
March 7 at 7:30 p.m.
At the Somerville Armory Cafe, 191 Highland Avenue, Somerville, MA
Boston singer/songwriter Terry Kitchen, Somerville singer/songwriter Janet Feld, and New Jersey folksinger Mara Levine get together for what will be a memorable evening of fok music. The show will feature a solo set by each artist, followed by a round robin song swap, with lots of sharing. Terry and Janet have written a number of songs together, Mara sings harmony on Terry’s new album Next Time We Meet, and Mara sings a song of Terry’s on her latest album Facets of Folk.
— Bill Marx
Marcia Ball & Sonny Landreth
ONCE Ballroom, 156 Highland Ave, Somerville, MA
Massively expressive and varied guitarists don’t seem to be as plentiful as they once were, but veteran Sonny Landreth surely qualifies and sounds as fresh as ever. He does a fine job singing and writing about highways and heartbreaks on his new Blacktop Run (Provogue), but his ever-shifting mix of finger-picking and slide on the guitar delivers the most potent and eloquent voice on the album. His first passion, Zydeco, makes an appearance along with blues and bits of psychedelia and sounds always strange and beautiful. Landreth could be from nowhere except Louisiana, the part of the country that speaks all languages of music, even all at once sometimes.
— Milo Miles
Vanity Fair, An (Im-) morality Play, an adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel by Kate Hamill. Directed by David R Gammons. Staged by Underground Railway Theater at the Central Square Theatre, Cambridge, MA, through February 23.
“Two women – one privileged and the other from the streets – strive to navigate an unfair society that punishes them for every mistake. (Bad) Becky isn’t afraid to break the rules while (Good) Amelia fears even to bend them. Hamill’s adaptation of Thackeray’s Vanity Fair explores how flexible our morals become when our luck turns against us.” Arts Fuse review
Hair Book & Lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado. Music by Galt MacDermot. Directed and choregraphed by Rachel Bertone. Staged by New Repertory Theatre on its MainStage Theater at the Mosesian Center for the Arts located at 321 Arsenal Street, Watertown, MA, through February 23.
“With MacDermot’s groundbreaking music and the show’s progressive themes, Hair revolutionized musical theatre as Broadway’s first rock musical in 1968. Emerging from the hippie counter-culture of the 1960s, Rado and Ragni’s story shows a tribe’s journey toward finding their voices in a time of political upheaval, and their use of sex and drugs to evade reality. Featuring the smash hits ‘Aquarius’ and ‘Let the Sunshine In’, this award-winning show is certain to be a nostalgic and groovy experience.” Believe me, this show was considered incredibly square by counterculture types. Somehow it has become “groundbreaking.” Note: This production contains strong language, frequent references to sex and illicit substances, and brief nudity. Recommended for ages 18+. Arts Fuse review
Gloria: A Life by Emily Mann. Directed by Diane Paulus. Staged by the American Repertory Theater (In association with the McCarter Theatre Center and by special arrangement with Daryl Roth)at the Loeb Drama Center, Cambridge, MA, through March 1.
See it before it goes to New York. “This new play about Gloria Steinem and the women she has partnered with in a decades-long fight for equality is brought to life by a dynamic ensemble of performers. Fifty years after Gloria began raising her voice and championing those of others, her vision is as urgent as ever. Gloria’s belief in talking circles as a catalyst for change offers us all a path forward. The first act is Gloria’s story; the second is our own.” Note: This production includes strong language, mature themes, and discussions of sexual harassment and violence. Arts Fuse review
Radio Golf by August Wilson. Directed by Jude Sandy. Staged by Trinity Rep at the Dowling Theatre, 201 Washington Street, Providence, RI, through March 1.
Pulitzer-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks interviewed August Wilson shortly before his death. Asked about this script, the final in his cycle of ten plays depicting the Black experience decade by decade through the 20th century, Wilson responded that he “had to in some way deal with the black middle class, which for the most part is not in the other nine plays.” Parks’s reply: “You are wild in ways that people aren’t even hip to…. Within the lines of this play, you’ve made a place for the unconventional, the bit that does not traditionally fit, the outsider, the digression, the seemingly extraneous.” Arts Fuse review.
Deal Me Out by MJ Halberstadt. Directed by Shana Gozansky. At the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, 949 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA, through March 1.
“November, 2016. A close-knit board game group meets for its weekly game night in Oberon’s father’s garage with an uncomfortable “game” on the menu: kick Dez out. But echoes of the polarized world outside invade their sacred space, and no one is prepared to face the real problem, which threatens to flip the board on them all.” This is “a comic drama set inside the world of gamers.”
Winter Panto 2020: Hansel & Gretel, written and performed by imaginary beasts at the Charlestown Working Theater, 442 Bunker Hill Street, Charlestown, MA, through March 1.
“The beasts’ ensemble as they take you on a fairy tale journey through an enchanted forest filled with sweet adventures and delicious dangers. When young Hansel and Gretel find themselves lost in the woods, things take a suitably “Grimm” turn, until they chance upon a house made of gingerbread. Will our hungry heroes satisfy their every sweet-tooth; or, will they bite off more than they can chew? There’s no sugar-coating one fact: this year the Dame is a real witch!”
The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish by Alexander Pushkin. Directed by Evgeny Ibragimov. Set & Puppet Design by Ksenya Litvak. Music by Nikolay Yakimov. Staged by the Arlekin Players Theatre at 368 Hillside Ave, Needham, MA, through April 12.
From the golden pen of Pushkin: “One day, a poor old fisherman casts his net into the ocean and catches an unusual and beautiful talking fish. The fish begs the old man to release him, which he does, refusing any payment for this act of kindness. What happens next is a tale about love and betrayal, temptation and redemption.” Note: this is a non-verbal performance suitable for ages 4 and up.
Sweat by Lynn Nottage. Directed by Kimberly Senior. Staged by Huntington Theatre Company at the venue of the Arts / Huntington Avenue Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA, through March 1.
This critically acclaimed play from a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning playwright “chronicles years in the lives of a group of friends from this working-class community who are struggling to stay connected as the local factory industry, which has employed them for generations, crumbles. In a neighborhood bar, each of them reaches for their piece of the American dream while their friendships are put to the test.” Arts Fuse review
What Matters Most
March 6 through 8
At the Central Square Theater, 450 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA
Superb local singer Michael Ricca presents his latest one-man show, with pianist Ron Roy as his accompanist. It is billed as a “lively and poignant musical evening exploring the people, places, and ideas that matter most in life.” “This musical meditation on our values features an eclectic mix of songs by Michel Legrand, Stephen Sondheim, Cat Stevens, Elton John, Burt Bacharach, Duke Ellington, and many more.”
Citrus by Celeste Jennings. Directed by JaMeeka Holloway-Burrell. Staged by Northern Stage at the Barrette Center for the Arts, 74 Gates Street, White River Junction, VT, February 26 through March 15.
The world premiere of Celeste Jennings’s choreopoem, an assemblage of “music, dance, and spoken-word poetry that intricately weaves together stories of Black women throughout American history to create a portrait of resilience and humanity.” Jennings, winner of the 2018 Kennedy Center Hip Hop Theater Creator Award and a recent Dartmouth College graduate, “puts forth a candid look at the daily struggles and triumphs of Black women from the 1840s to modern day.” The work “captures the tragedy of common experiences and exalts the magnificent beauty of the mundane.” Arts Fuse preview
Nina Simone: Four Women by Christina Ham. Directed by Kenneth L. Robertson. Staged by the Merrimack Repertory Theater (a co-production with Chicago’s Northlight Theatre) at 50 East Merrimack Street, Lowell, MA, through March 8.
“The show brings to life Nina Simone’s original song “Four Women,” her tribute to the four little girls killed in the 1963 church bombing in Alabama. Fearing for their lives in a basement across the street from the church, the women – including Nina herself – represent four very different African-American perspectives. As she grapples with sorrow and rage, Nina slowly begins her transformation from jazz club chanteuse to the civil rights activist we revere today.” Arts Fuse review
Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare. Directed by Igor Golyak. Staged by the Actors Shakespeare Project at the Plaza Theatre, Boston Center for the Arts, Boston, MA, March 11 through April 5.
Igor Golyak is one of the city most provocative directors, so this production, at a time of heightened antisemitism around the world, is bound to be of interest.
The Children by Lucy Kirkwood. Directed by Bryn Boice. Staged by SpeakEasy Stage Company at the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street, Boston, MA, February 28 through March 28.
This is “a taut and timely script (a 2018 Tony Award Nominee for Best Play) that questions the responsibility each generation has for the way it leaves the world. One summer evening, in an isolated cottage on the British coast, Hazel and Robin, a long-married pair of retired physicists, are surprised by a visit from Rose, a former colleague whom they haven’t seen in 38 years. As the friends reminisce, long-held secrets come to light, leading to the real reason for Rose’s return.” The highly impressive cast includes Tyrees Allen, Karen MacDonald, and Paula Plum. Arts Fuse review of the 2019 Shakespeare and Company production of The Children.
A Tale of Two Cities by Brian McEleney, based on the novel by Charles Dickens. Directed by Tyler Dobrowsky. Set design by Eugene Lee. Staged by Trinity Repertory Company at the Chace Theater, 201 Washington Street, Providence, RI, through March 22.
“Against the tumultuous backdrop of social and political upheaval emerges a passionate story of romance, sacrifice, and vengeance. This fresh new adaptation fuses the late 18th century with the contemporary, bringing the epic and universal face to face with the intensely intimate and personal. “The best of times and the worst of times” are brought to vivid and musical life on stage.” Arts Fuse review
Wolf Play by Hansol Jung. Directed by Summer L. Williams. Staged by Company One in association with the Boston Public Library at Rabb Hall at the Boston Public Library, Central Branch in Copley Square, Boston, MA through February 29.
This National New Play Network Rolling world premiere gives us “southpaw boxer Ash, who’s on the verge of her pro debut when her wife Robin adopts a Korean boy off the internet without technically checking in with Ash first.” We also have the “boy’s first pair of adoptive parents, who were all set to unadopt him until they realized he’d be growing up… without a dad. Now, the boy is caught in the middle, and just wants to find his wolfpack.” Recommended for ages 14 and up. This production includes adult language and potentially difficult subject matter.
When Time Dilates
February 25 at 7 p.m.
MIT Swara presents an evening of Carnatic music and classical Bharathanatyam Indian dance featuring performer Sujatha Srinivasan and musician Sri Balraj Balasubrahmaniyam. Both are highly-acclaimed artists and teachers; the joint performance celebrates the romantic and the divine.
February 27-March 8
Boston Opera House
Boston Ballet presents rEVOLUTION, a trio of works by renowned choreographers George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and William Forsythe. Revel in Balanchine’s powerful collaboration with Igor Stravinsky in Agon; Broadway and ballet legend Robbins’s masterwork Glass Pieces; and Forsythe’s globally-applauded In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated.
March 6 & 7 at 8 p.m.
The Dance Complex
Inspired by Japanese language and culture, Kizuna Dance makes its Boston premiere. Artistic Director Cameron MicKinney “blends a streetdance background with capoeira and contemporary floorwork to create scenes of organized chaos and structured impulsivity.” The production includes a new work by Hannah Garner, who was recently named one of Dance Magazine‘s “25 to Watch” for 2020.
Camille A. Brown & Dancers
March 7 at 8 p.m.; and March 8 at 3 p.m.
Boch Center Shubert Theatre
If you’ve never seen Camille A. Brown & Dancers live, I personally recommend making the time to do so while they are in Boston! A master tapper, Brown bridges past and present while calling attention to the rhythms and stories of the African Diaspora. This dynamic performer and choreographer is being presented by the Celebrity Series of Boston.
And further afield…
Motion State Dance Festival
March 5-7 at 7:30 p.m.
WaterFire Arts Center
Head to Providence for a festival celebrating the live and on-screen works of Beth Gill (NYC), Vanessa Knouse (NYC), McKersin Previlus (Boston), Sokeo Ros (Providence, RI) (Thursday, March 5); Miguel Gutierrez (NYC), Heidi Henderson (Wakefield, RI), Eleanor Hullihan (NYC), Mar Parrilla (Boston) (Friday, March 6); and Erin Dowd (NJ), Orlando Hernández (Providence, RI), Bebe Miller (Columbus, OH), and Jenna Pollack (Boston) (Sunday, March 7). This festival highlights the art of solo performance.
— Merli V. Guerra
Temple Emanuel presents: Arnaud Sussman, violin & Gloria Chien, piano
February 23 at 3 p.m.
At Temple Emanuel, 385 Ward Street, Newton, MA
On the program: works by Beethoven, Schumann, Debussy and Ravel.
Chameleon Arts Ensemble presents: whose fragments we inherit
February 29 at 8 p.m. and March 1 at 4 p.m.
At the First Church in Boston, 66 Marlborough Street, Boston, MA.
On the program: Felix Mendelssohn’s Variations Concertantes in D Major for cello & piano, Op. 17; Steven Stucky’s Serenade for woodwind quintet;Franz Joseph Haydn’s Piano Trio No. 39 in G Major Hob. XV:25 “Gypsy”; Alfred Schnittke’s Moz-Art for two violins; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet in A Major, K. 581.
Masterworks Chorale presents: Bloch’s Sacred Service and more
March 1 at 3 p.m.
At Old South Church, 645 Boylston Street, Boston, MA
On the program: Bloch’s Sacred Service, Lukas Foss’s Behold, I Build an House and Randall Thompson’s Alleluia.
Music for Food presents: Palaver Strings And Triple Helix
March 1 at 7:30 p.m.
At Brown Hall/New England Conservatory, 30 Gainsborough Street, Boston, MA
On the program: two piano trios from Armenia and China, respectively, nestled between two of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. All concert donations will support The Women’s Lunch Place.
Miloš: The Voice of the Guitar, with members of 12 Ensemble
March 6 at 8 p.m.
At Jordan Hall/New England Conservatory, 30 Gainsborough Street, Boston, MA
For this program, presented by the Celebrity Series, the celebrated guitarist plays a wide-ranging program, from J.S. Bach and Granados to Piazzolla and the Beatles in a chamber music setting with string quartet and quintet.
Sarasa Music presents Schubert’s Die Schone Mullerin
March 7 at 8 p.m.
At Harvard-Epworth Methodist Church, 1555 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA
March 8 at 3:30 p.m.
First Parish in Lexington, 7 Harrington Road, Lexington, MA
“A rare chance to hear Schubert’s astounding song cycle depicting a journeyman’s turbulent experience of unrequited love, etched by sounds of a babbling brook, a restless mill, the confident horn calls of a hunter, all captured in an arrangement for tenor and string quartet.”
— Susan Miron
Together and Apart
Presented by New England Philharmonic
February 23, 3 p.m.
Jordan Hall, Boston, MA
Richard Pittman and the NEP present – astonishingly – the first Boston performance of Béla Bartók’s early tone poem Kossuth, as well as the world premiere of Bernard Hoffer’s Violin Concerto no. 2 (with Danielle Maddon as soloist). Music by Judith Weir (Moon and Star) and John Adams (The Chairman Dances) round out the typically-eclectic afternoon.
Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields
Presented by the Celebrity Series
February 23, 3 p.m.
Symphony Hall, Boston, MA
Joshua Bell and the ASMF return to Boston with a program that covers just about all the expressive bases, beginning with Mozart’s ebullient Overture to The Marriage of Figaro, continuing with Paganini’s high-flying Violin Concerto no. 1 (with Bell as soloist), and ending with Brahms’ tragic Symphony no. 4.
— Jonathan Blumhofer
Peter Keough & Gerald Peary — For Kids of All Ages
February 24 at 6 p.m.
At the Central Library, Boston Public Library, 700 Boylston Street, Boston, MA
Join two charismatic critics for a discussion of and readings from the anthology collection For Kids of All Ages: The National Society of Film Critics on Children’s Movies. The book’s editor, Boston Globe film critic Peter Keough, and contributor Gerald Peary, film critic for the Arts Fuse, will no doubt entertain and illuminate. The Arts Fuse review of the book had this to say: “Peter Keough has edited a useful, insightful, and delightful new collection of short essays that explore films that appeal to adults who seek childlike glee or awe at the movies.”
— Bill Marx
The Illness Lesson: A Novel
February 25 at 7 p.m.
Porter Square Books, Cambridge MA
“At their newly founded school, Samuel Hood and his daughter Caroline promise a groundbreaking education for young women. But Caroline has grave misgivings. After all, her own unconventional education has left her unmarriageable and isolated, unsuited to the narrow roles afforded women in 19th century New England.
When a mysterious flock of red birds descends on the town, Caroline alone seems to find them unsettling. But it’s not long before the assembled students begin to manifest bizarre symptoms: Rashes, seizures, headaches, verbal tics, night wanderings. One by one, they sicken. Fearing ruin for the school, Samuel overrules Caroline’s pleas to inform the girls’ parents and turns instead to a noted physician, a man whose sinister ministrations — based on a shocking historic treatment — horrify Caroline. As the men around her continue to dictate, disastrously, all terms of the girls’ experience, Caroline’s body too begins to betray her. To save herself and her young charges, she will have to defy every rule that has governed her life, her mind, her body, and her world.”
Prejudicial: Black America and the Presidents
February 28 at 7 p.m.
Harvard Book Store, Cambridge MA
“Throughout the history of the United States, numerous presidents have left their legacies as slaveholders, bigots, and inciters of racial violence, but were the ones generally regarded as more sympathetic to the plight and interests of black Americans — such as Lincoln, FDR, and Clinton– really much better? And what of all the presidents whose relationship with black America is not even considered in the pages of most history books? Over the course of 45 chapters — one for each president –Margaret Kimberley enlightens and informs readers about the attitudes and actions of the highest elected official in the country. By casting sunlight on an aspect of American history that is largely overlooked, Prejudential aims to increase awareness in a manner that will facilitate discussion and understanding.”
March 3 at 7 p.m.
Brookline Booksmith, Coolidge Corner MA
“An electrifying debut memoir from the son of working-class Mexican immigrants, Noé Álvarez fled a life of labor in fruit-packing plants to run in an Indigenous marathon from Canada to Guatemala. Running through mountains, deserts, cities, and the territory his parents left behind, Álvarez forges a new relationship with the land, and with the act of running, carrying with him the knowledge of his parents’ migration, and — against all odds, in a society that exploits his body and rejects his spirit — the dream of a liberated future.”
Weather: A Novel
March 6 at 7 p.m.
Brookline Booksmith, Coolidge Corner MA
“For years Lizzie Benson has tended to her God-haunted mother and her recovering addict brother. They have both stabilized for the moment, but Lizzie has little chance to spend her new free time with husband and son before her old mentor, Sylvia Liller, makes a proposal. She’s become famous for her prescient podcast, Hell and High Water, and wants to hire Lizzie to answer the mail she receives: from left-wingers worried about climate change and right-wingers worried about the decline of western civilization. As Lizzie dives into this polarized world, she begins to wonder what it means to keep tending your own garden once you’ve seen the flames beyond its walls.” Arts Fuse review
The Boston Massacre: A Family History
March 6 at 7 p.m.
Harvard Book Store, Cambridge MA
“The story of the Boston Massacre — when on a late winter evening in 1770, British soldiers shot five local men to death — is familiar to generations. But from the very beginning, many accounts have obscured a fascinating truth: the Massacre arose from conflicts that were as personal as they were political. Professor Serena Zabin draws on original sources and lively stories to follow British troops as they are dispatched from Ireland to Boston in 1768 to subdue the increasingly rebellious colonists. And she reveals a forgotten world hidden in plain sight: the many regimental wives and children who accompanied these armies. We see these families jostling with Bostonians for living space, finding common cause in the search for a lost child, trading barbs and sharing baptisms. Becoming, in other words, neighbors. When soldiers shot unarmed citizens in the street, it was these intensely human, now broken bonds that fueled what quickly became a bitterly fought American Revolution.”
Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker
A Very Stable Genius: Donald Trump’s Testing Of America
March 10 at 7 p.m.
First Parish Church, Cambridge MA
Tickets are $10 against the price of the book
“This peerless and gripping narrative reveals President Trump at his most unvarnished and exposes how decision making in his administration has been driven by a reflexive logic of self-preservation and self-aggrandizement — but a logic nonetheless. This is the story of how an unparalleled president has scrambled to survive and tested the strength of America’s democracy and its common heart as a nation.”
— Matt Hanson
Rock, Pop, and Folk
Della Mae has released four albums since forming 11 years ago in Boston. In that time, they have also been selected by the U.S. Department of State to tour several Central Asian nations with the American Music Abroad program, won the 2013 International Bluegrass Music Association Emerging Artist of the Year award, and received a Best Bluegrass Album Grammy nomination for 2013’s The World Oft Can Be. On January 17, Della Mae unveiled Headlight, which featured lifelong members Kimber Ludiker (a two-time national champion fiddle player) and Jenni Lyn Gardner (mandolin) as well as singer/guitarist Celia Woodsmith (click for my 2018 interview), who joined in 2011. The band’s Thursday night show at The Sinclair will be the first date of a lengthy U.S. tour that will voyage across the pond for late-April visits to Belgium, the Netherlands, and the UK.
Bearstronaut has won four of the seven Electronic Artist of the Year Boston Music Awards that they have been nominated for. They have also been in contention for the top honor in the Song (2013), Album/EP of the Year (2013, 2016), and Pop Artist (2017) categories. In 2017, they performed their song “Shadow” on Jimmy Kimmel Live!. This Saturday, the band will play their farewell show at Great Scott. After that, their fellow electronic and dance artists’ chances of a BMA will spike dramatically.
Christone Ingram was born in Clarksdale, MS, which was the birthplace of — among others — Sam Cooke and Ike Turner and which isn’t far from the home towns of John Lee Hooker, Son House, and Junior Parker. He grew up in a musical family that included his cousin Charley Pride. Last year, Ingram released his Grammy-nominated debut, Kingfish, which featured Buddy Guy and Keb’ Mo’. His dazzling fretwork and impressive singing won him a spot opening for Vampire Weekend at large venues like Agganis Arena. Having had a birthday in January, he’ll finally be able to buy himself a beer at his March 5 Brighton Music Hall gig.
The artist currently known as Squirrel Flower was born Ella O’Connor Williams in Arlington, MA, to where she returned after graduating from Grinnell College in the small Iowa town of the same name. Williams’s debut LP I Was Born Swimming (Polyvinyl) was partially recorded at Waltham’s Woolly Mammoth Sound and released on January 31. Interestingly, the title is autobiographical and the first words one hears from her are “I tried to by lyrical/But lyrics failed me/So I gave up poetry.” Most of the album’s dozen tracks are melancholy slow tempo acoustic ballads. However, an electric guitar fortifies “Red Shoulder” and “Streetlight Blues” while “Honey, Oh Honey!” pumps the gas a bit for all of its one minute and 14 seconds. I Was Born Swimming is unlikely to be the best album Williams ever makes (I mean that as a compliment), but it is an auspicious beginning and fine calling card for her March 7 performance at Great Scott.
Upcoming sold-out shows that are worth pursuing someone’s extra or unusable tickets to include Of Montreal (March 4, The Sinclair), Spider Stacey & Cait O’Riordan of The Pogues with The Lost Bayou Ramblers (March 5, City Winery), and Destroyer (March 6, The Sinclair).
— Blake Maddux