252 West 45th St. between Broadway & Eighth Ave.
Tuesday - Sunday through July 28, $62 - $142
When he was at Yale in the 1970s, Christopher Durang teamed with Albert Innaurato and Jack Feldman on The Idiots Karamazov, a musical about a Russian translator that begins with a song titled “O, We Gotta Get to Moscow,” as the translator confuses Dostoevsky with Chekhov and other writers. Going to Moscow shows up again in Durang’s delightful satire, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, which has made a successful transition from Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse to Broadway’s Golden Theatre. Durang sets his latest play in a Bucks County farmhouse by a lake where a blue heron stops by daily, based on the Bucks County farmhouse by a lake with a blue heron where Durang and his partner reside. Living in the fictional house are Vanya (David Hyde Pierce) and Sonia (Kristine Nielsen), a pair of fiftysomething siblings (one adopted) who have essentially sacrificed what lives they might have had by taking care of their ill, elderly parents while their sister, Masha (Sigourney Weaver), became a famous movie star gallivanting around the world with five husbands. Clearly, their parents had a thing for Chekhov; Masha is named after characters from The Seagull and Three Sisters, Vanya and the adopted Sonia from Uncle Vanya. Invited to a neighbor’s costume party, Masha arrives at the house in grand diva fashion, overemoting and unable to keep her hands off her hot new boy toy, Spike (Billy Magnussen), who enjoys taking off most of his clothes at a moment’s notice and striking muscular poses. Masha quickly grows jealous when Spike meets young, pretty ingénue Nina (played at Lincoln Center by Genevieve Angelson and now by Leisel Allen Yeager, the only cast change from the original production), a wannabe actress named after the young, innocent actress in The Seagull. Meanwhile, the cleaning lady, Cassandra (Shalita Grant), makes dire predictions that keep coming true, just like her namesake, the Greek mythological figure with second sight. As Vanya, Sonia, Masha, Spike, and Nina prepare for the party — Masha insists they all go as characters from Snow White, with Masha as the beautiful protagonist, slyly referencing Weaver’s portrayal of the evil stepmother in the 1997 television movie Snow White: A Tale of Terror — jealousy, fear, deception, childhood resentment, and more bubble to the surface and threaten to erupt, albeit in primarily wacky, hysterical ways.
You don’t need to know anything about Chekhov and his searing dramas about seriously dysfunctional families to get a huge kick out of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, which has a unique family feel itself — Weaver has been working with Durang since the Yale days, Hyde Pierce starred in the Broadway production of the playwright’s Beyond Therapy (as well as Peter Brook’s The Cherry Orchard), and Nielsen is Durang’s acknowledged muse, having appeared in many of his shows, in parts specifically written for her. Director Nicholas Martin, who previously helmed Durang’s Why Torture Is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them at the Public, keeps things relatively natural and grounded even with Weaver, Magnussen, and Grant playing things deliciously way over the top, as the story’s tender heart is wonderfully captured by the amazing Nielsen and Hyde Pierce, who agonize over their loneliness and advancing age, the importance of family, and, perhaps most Chekhovian, a world that seems to be passing them by. Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is a thoroughly enjoyable if often goofy and now, on Broadway, even bigger and broader mashup from one of America’s most engaging satirists at the top of his game. (And be sure to go here to read the fall 2012 issue of Lincoln Center Review, which includes Durang’s “My Life with Chekhov,” an essay detailing seven encounters he had with the Russian playwright, dating back to when he was fourteen.)
“We never can just settle on formula — that would make me insane,” Liars frontman Angus Andrew said about his band’s most recent album, last summer’s palindromic WIXIW. “We have to take risks and just fuck things up anew every time. It’s ingrained.” Since the new millennium, Liars has consistently been taking risks and fucking things up anew, on such records as 2001’s They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top, 2004’s They Were Wrong, So We Drowned, and 2010’s Sisterworld, experimenting in multiple genres, from postpunk to dance to electronica, but always with unique twists. Singer-guitarist Andrew, guitarist and synth player Aaron Hemphill, and drummer Julian Gross should provide plenty of twists this weekend, when they play the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Saturday night, followed by a show Sunday night at (le) poisson rouge with Doldrums as part of the Wordless Music series; the concert was initially supposed to take place in the Brooklyn Masonic Temple, near the band’s sometime home base. As a bonus gift to their fans, Liars has just released a video of a new song, “I Saw You from the Lifeboat,” which contains a link to a free download of that tune as well as the new “Perfume Tear”; after the two New York shows, the group will head across the pond for concerts in Spain, Italy, France, England, Switzerland, and Israel.
The seventh annual New York Dance Parade, a celebration of all kinds of movement, will groove through the city on May 18, beginning at 1:00 at 21st St. & Broadway and making its way southeast until it reaches Tompkins Square Park, where DanceFest takes place from 3:00 to 7:00 with live performances, workshops, demonstrations, information booths, special presentations, and other activities. Leading the parade of ten thousand dancers from two hundred groups representing eighty different styles will be a trio of grand marshals: DJ Louie Vega, masterful DanceAfrica founder Baba Chuck Davis, and choreographer Jacqulyn Buglisi. The parade started as a response to New York’s antiquated Cabaret Law, which in 1926 held that dance was not a form of artistic expression and was not protected by the Second Amendment. The event’s mission is “to promote dance as an expressive and unifying art form by showcasing all forms of dance, educating the general public about the opportunities to experience dance, and celebrating diversity of dance in New York City.” Dance Parade is always a hot, sweaty, sexy, and fun event, whether you’re participating or just checking out the scene, which brings everyone together in the spirit of this year’s theme, “Unity Through Dance.”
The High Line, the elevated freight rail line on Manhattan’s West Side that has become possibly the city’s most spectacular public park, was once utterly abandoned, a postindustrial wasteland filled with broken glass, tin cans, bottle caps, rusted metal, and nature run wild. On Friday, it will be home to a bunch of bottle caps again, this time as part of a promotion for Sweet Leaf Tea designed to encourage the kindness of strangers. Between 10:00 am and 8:00 pm, park visitors can pick up one of three thousand bottle caps from Sweet Leaf, each of which bears an instruction to do nice things, such as “Hail a cab for a stranger,” “Buy your co-worker coffee,” “Pay attention to your pet,” and “Give someone a compliment today.” In a statement, Friends of the High Line cofounder Joshua David explained, “This installation shows how public-private partnerships can present engaging opportunities for High Line visitors while also supporting the ongoing maintenance and operations of the park, which is funded entirely by the generosity of private donors.” When all the bottle caps are gone, a hidden Sweet Leaf mural will be revealed — and New York may be an even sweeter place to spend a sunny spring Friday.
South Korean auteur Kim Ki-duk’s eighteenth film, Pietà, is not exactly the biblical story of Jesus and Mary. Instead, it’s a challenging, difficult psychological thriller that delves into the relationships between mothers and sons, including the Madonna-whore aspects. Lee Jung-jin stars as Lee Kang-do, a lonely young man who works for a usurer in the slums of Cheonggyecheon who charges local businessmen one-thousand-percent interest on three-thousand-dollar loans. The borrowers are forced to take out insurance policies understanding that if they default on the payments, Lee will maim them, with the resultant claim covering what they owe. In the first half of the movie, Lee makes his way through a series of men who have failed to meet their financial obligations, so he hurts them badly, often in front of their wives or mothers, doing so without guilt or any sign of compassion. A strange woman (Cho Min-soo) starts following him around, ultimately identifying herself as the mother who gave him up for adoption when he was born. Initially, Lee just wants her to go away, but after making her do something unconscionable — and very hard for viewers to watch — in order to prove who she is, they start developing an unusual parent-child relationship, and he begins to reconsider his soulless existence. But this being a Kim Ki-duk film, things don’t necessarily end well for all concerned. Written, directed, and edited by Kim (Bad Guy; Time; Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter . . . and Spring), Pietà, winner of the Golden Lion at the 2012 Venice Film Festival, is an intense cinematic experience that examines truth, justice, family, responsibility, redemption, and revenge as only Kim can.
Can one person really make a difference? In Bidder 70, directors Beth and George Gage tell the inspiring story of Tim DeChristopher, who has followed in the footsteps of such peaceful, nonviolent protestors as Rosa Parks, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi, although the humble West Virginia native wouldn’t dare put himself in such lofty company. In December 2008, DeChristopher attended a Utah Bureau of Land Management oil and gas lease auction without a real plan, knowing only that he had to do something to keep the pristine wilderness land out of the hands of corporate drillers; he ended up winning bids on more than twenty-two thousand acres for $1.7 million without any intention of actually paying, so he was arrested and charged with two felonies that could put him in prison for a long time. But he just couldn’t sit back and let the sale take place, and he’s willing to face the consequences. “It’s really hard for me to not think about climate change with anything that we’re doing,” the West Virginia native says in the film while relaxing in a vast, rocky landscape. “It’s this big weight that our generation is bearing on our shoulders, and it’s like something chasing us, that’s getting closer all the time. We’ve always been told that things are just beyond our control and that corporations have all the power, and we don’t often get to be reminded that we’re citizens of what was once the greatest democracy on the planet and that we’re human beings with the power to inspire others through our actions.” The Gages (American Outrage, Fire on the Mountain) follow the modest DeChristopher as he becomes a leader in the civil disobedience movement, cofounding Peaceful Uprising and preparing for a trial that continually gets postponed, perhaps for political reasons. Among the talking heads discussing and/or helping DeChristopher in his defense — he could end up being sentenced to twenty years in prison even though the government later declared the auction he attended to be illegal — are environmental activists Robert Redford and Bill McKibben, writer and conservationist Terry Tempest Williams, Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Terry Root, attorneys Ron Yengich and Patrick Shea, and NASA GISS director Dr. James Hansen. Can one person really make a difference? Bidder 70 provides the answer. The documentary opens May 17 at the Quad, with DeChristopher and Beth and George Gage participating in Q&As after the 7:10 screenings on Friday and Saturday and the Gages back for another Q&A on Monday night.
THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS (Terry Gilliam, 2009)
323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St.
Friday, May 17, and Saturday, May 18, 12:00 midnight
Longtime Monty Python animator Terry Gilliam is perhaps the most frustrating filmmaker of the last thirty years. A remarkable talent whose works are often mired in controversy, from going way overbudget to having to deal with severe illness and even death on his sets, Gilliam has made such pure gems as Time Bandits (1981), Brazil (1985), and The Fisher King (1991) as well as such disasters as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), The Brothers Grimm (2005), and Tideland (2005). His last real success was Twelve Monkeys (1995), making it nearly fifteen years since he’s made a worthwhile movie. His 2009 adult fairy tale, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, is reminiscent of his 1988 film, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, a somewhat underrated though hit-or-miss effort that reached lofty heights while flirting with utter ridiculousness. Cowritten by Gilliam and Charles McKeown (who also collaborated on Brazil and Munchausen), Parnassus is built around a Faustian plot in which a monk, Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer), who thinks his sect controls the story of the world, makes a deal with Mr. Nick, the devil (Tom Waits), involving Parnassus’s daughter, Valentina (Lily Cole). Valentina is part of the doctor’s traveling sideshow, along with the trusted, all-knowing Percy (Verne Troyer) and assistant Anton (Andrew Garfield), who is in love with Valentina but is unable to express his desire. The ramshackle show offers people the chance to walk through a mirror into their own private fantasy — during which they will eventually face a decision regarding their own potential deal with the devil. When the oddball troupe discovers a man hanging by his neck under a bridge, they welcome the charming, handsome, deeply mysterious stranger (Heath Ledger) into their outfit, but he is hiding a secret that could tear everything apart. Parnassus is an up-and-down affair in which a captivating, beautiful scene will be followed by a baffling segment that borders on the incompetent, as if the filmmakers forgot to edit it properly or couldn’t afford more takes to improve it. Fortunately, the last half hour is thrilling, especially how Gilliam and McKeown rework the script to deal with Ledger’s death when several key scenes still needed to be shot. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is screening in a DCP projection at midnight on May 17 & 18 as part of the IFC Center Waverly Midnights series “Terry Gilliam,” which continues through July 20 with such other fine Gilliam fare as Time Bandits, Jabberwocky, and Brazil.