AMERICAN DANCE GUILD 2015 PERFORMANCE FESTIVAL
The Ailey Citigroup Theater
The Joan Weill Center for Dance
405 West 55th St. at Ninth Ave.
December 3-6, $15-$50
This year’s American Dance Guild Performance Festival takes place December 3-6 at the Ailey Citigroup Theater, consisting of nearly three dozen artists and companies in addition to tributes to living legends Liz Lerman, Doug Varone, and Alice Teirstein. Lerman will present a video history of her career on December 3 and 4, Varone will perform in Lux on December 3 and 5, and Teirstein’s Young Dancemakers will perform a short piece on December 3 and 6. The festival also features Jacqulyn Buglisi’s Sospiri on December 4 and Merce Cunningham’s Suite for Two on December 5. Among the other dancers and choreographers presenting programs are Imana Gunawan, Cherylyn Lavagnino, Dominic Duong, Daniel Gwirtzman, Nancy Zendora, Kaoru Ikeda, Jessica Gaynor, Rebecca Rice, and Jin-Wen Yu.
It’s hard to believe, but John Lennon would have turned seventy-five this past October 9. It would be fascinating to hear what he would have to say about what’s going on in the world today, but we’ll have to suffice with such special events as the thirty-fifth annual John Lennon Tribute, when a diverse group of musicians will gather to honor the Smart Beatle’s legacy of peace. “It’s always joyous to ‘come together over John.’ His songs and message are timeless, and as relevant as ever," said tribute creator and MAD magazine senior editor Joe Raiola. Presented by Theatre Within and Music Without Borders, this year’s show features Martin Sexton, Joan Osborne, Joseph Arthur, Bettye LaVette, Willie Nile, Lucy Kaplansky, Richard Shindell, Jonatha Brooke, Nicole Atkins, Toshi Reagon, Dan Bern, and music director Rich Pagano. In addition, Vagina Monlogues playwright and activist Eve Ensler will receive the second annual John Lennon Real Love Award. The evening benefits Theatre Within’s John Lennon Real Love Project, which “offers children and young adults in medical care centers, schools, and communities in need the unique opportunity to compose their own songs.”
SOUL (SHĪ HÚN) (Chung Mong-hong, 2013)
BAMcinématek, BAM Rose Cinemas
30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Pl. & St. Felix St.
Monday, November 30, 7:30
Series runs November 30 - December 3
Taiwanese writer-director Chung Mong-Hong’s third feature film, following 2008’s Parking and 2010’s The Fourth Portrait, is an intense, meditatively paced thriller about family and identity. In Soul, wuxia legend Jimmy Wang (aka Jimmy Wong Yu) stars as Wang, a simple, understated old man living in a reclusive house in the mountains. After his chef son, Ah-Chuan (Joseph Chang Hsiao-Chuan), suddenly collapses in the city and is brought back to his childhood home, strange things start occurring, as Ah-Chuan seems different and dead bodies begin to pile up. It turns out that Ah-Chuan’s soul has temporarily left his body, replaced by another, not-quite-so-gentle being, leading to yet more trouble, especially because Wang’s goofy policeman nephew, Little Wu (Vincent Liang), continues to hang around, sensing that something suspicious might be going on. The Taiwanese entry for Best Foreign Language Film for the 2014 Oscars, Soul is a gripping, surreal tale that unfolds with a cool calm that can explode at any moment, and then does. Shaw Brothers veteran Wang, who wrote, directed, and starred in such martial arts classics as The Chinese Boxer and Master of the Flying Guillotine, is sensational as Uncle Wang, playing the role with an assured, self-possessed composure despite the hell the old man finds himself in.
Chang (Eternal Summer, Au Revoir Taipei) is a strong counterpart to Wang, combining inner strength with just the right amount of mystery and danger. As in his previous films, which also include the 2011 short Reverberation and the 2006 documentary Doctor, Chung also serves as cinematographer, using the pseudonym Nagao Nakashima, and the gorgeous photography is like a character unto itself, bathing the film in lush earth tones that add yet another level to the lovely perplexity of it all. Soul kicks off BAMcinématek’s four-film retrospective of Chung’s work, screening on November 30 at 7:30, followed by a Q&A with the director. The series continues with Parking on December 1, Doctor on December 2, and The Fourth Portrait on December 3.
Who: Alina Cho and Diane von Furstenberg
What: Met Museum Presents: “The Atelier with Alina Cho”
Where: Metropolitan Museum of Art, Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, 1000 Fifth Ave. at 82nd St., 212-570-3949
When: Wednesday, December 2, $40 (includes museum admission), 6:30
Why: Last year, journalist and editor presented the inaugural season of “The Atelier with Alina Cho,” in which Cho sat down at the Met with such fashionistas as Anna Wintour and Donatella Versace. Cho is kicking off her sophomore season on December 2 with legendary icon Diane von Furstenberg, discussing art, ideas, and much more, in conjunction with the paperback publication of DVF’s memoir, The Woman I Wanted to Be (Simon & Schuster, October 2015, $17). “Living is learning, and as I look back at the many layers of experience I collected, I feel ready to share some of the lessons I learned along the way,” von Furstenberg writes in the book’s introduction. “Living also means aging. The good thing about aging is that you have a past, a history. If you like your past and stand by it, then you know you have lived fully and learned from your life. Those are the lessons that allowed me to be the woman I am.”
For many people, the coming of Thanksgiving signals that Christmas is not too far off. For others, like us, it means that Alvin Ailey’s annual season at City Center is right around the corner. From December 2 to January 3, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will be at the West Fifty-Sixth Street institution, continuing to spread its wings under the inspired leadership of artistic director Robert Battle. This season is highlighted by four world premieres: Ronald K. Brown’s Open Door, set to music by Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra; Rennie Harris’s Exodus; Kyle Abraham’s Untitled America: First Movement, the start of a trilogy that examines the prison system; and Battle’s own Awakening, his first new work with AAADT since taking the reins from Judith Jamison. Jamison’s A Case for You, an excerpt from her longer piece, Reminiscin’, gets a new production, set to Diana Krall’s version of the Joni Mitchell song. There will also be new productions of Ailey’s Blues Suite, Love Songs, and Cry and Talley Beatty’s Toccata, an excerpt from Come and Get the Beauty of It Hot. The company will be premiering two works, Battle’s No Longer Silent, with a score by Nazi-banned Jewish composer Erwin Schulhoff, and Paul Taylor’s Piazzolla Caldera, set to tango music by Astor Piazzolla.
On December 15, 20 (matinee), and 29, “Ailey Visionaries” presents works exclusively by past and present AAADT artistic directors Ailey, Jamison, and Battle. Revelations will be performed with live music on December 2, 4, and 5, while live music will also accompany Blues Suite on December 16, 19 (matinee), 20 (evening), and 31. Five programs will consist of only new works, on December 17, 19 (evening), 22, and 26 (evening) and January 2 (evening). And true Ailey fanatics can catch five programs of pieces by the legendary dancer and choreographer, on December 8, 13 (matinee), 16, 19 (matinee), and 20 (evening). As always, Saturday matinees will be followed by Q&As with members of the company. As a bonus, Ronald K. Brown will teach a master class on November 30, Donna Wood will lead a Blues Suite class on December 6, and Hope Boykin will teach a Beyond the Stage Master Class on December 14. And Jamison’s fiftieth anniversary of joining AAADT will be celebrated on New Year’s Eve, featuring the return of Clifton Brown, who will dance A Case of You. In addition to those special events, the season includes such returning favorites as David Parsons’s Caught, Brown’s Four Corners and Grace, Aszure Barton’s Lift, and Hans van Manen’s Polish Pieces, among others. So yes, you have your work cut out for you to choose just the right performance, but you can’t go wrong with any of them. Or you can do what we would like to do and just move in to City Center for the month.
In 1975, a comedy troupe consisting of five Oxford and Cambridge grads and an American animator, the six best known for their absurdist sketches, teamed up to make the most quotable, and perhaps all-time-funniest, film to ever come from across the pond, and you can join in the fun on November 28 as Videology in Williamsburg hosts the Monty Python and the Holy Grail Quote-a-Long. In the relentlessly hysterical film, King Arthur (Graham Chapman) leads his ne’er-do-well Knights of the Round Table — Sir Lancelot the Brave (John Cleese), Sir Robin-the-Not-Quite-So-Brave-as-Sir-Lancelot (Eric Idle), Sir Bedevere the Wise (Terry Jones), and Sir Galahad the Pure (Michael Palin) — on a quest to find the Holy Grail, as ordered by God himself (voice of Chapman, cartoon of cricket legend W. G. Grace). So off they go, visiting strange castles with even stranger knights, answering silly questions to get across a bridge, seeking advice from a mad wizard, battling a cute little killer rabbit, and searching for shrubbery. The wild romp, in which the Pythons never meet a joke too high-brow or low-brow, helped warp the minds of several generations and continues to result in much rejoicing in living rooms and movie theaters around the world.
The Pythons play multiple roles throughout the hysterical romp, with such particularly riotous turns as Cleese as the Black Knight (“It’s just a flesh wound.”), Tim the Enchanter (“So! Brave knights! If you do doubt your courage or your strength, come no further, for death awaits you all with nasty, big, pointy teeth.”), and a French taunter (“Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.”), Gilliam as Patsy (“Camelot!” “It’s only a model.”), the Bridgekeeper (“What . . . is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?”), and the animator (“Ughck!”), Idle as the Dead Collector (“Who’s that then?” “I dunno, must be a king.” “Why?” “He hasn’t go shit all over him.”) and Roger the Shrubber (“Oh, what sad times are these when passing ruffians can say ‘Ni’ at will to old ladies.”), Palin as Dennis (“Oh, king, eh? Very nice. And how’d you get that, eh? By exploiting the workers. By hanging on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic and social differences in our society.”) the chief Knight Who Says “Ni” (“One that looks nice. And not too expensive.”) and Jones as Prince Herbert (“One day, lad, all this will be yours.” “What, the curtains?”). Python regulars Connie Booth and Carol Cleveland appear as well, the former as a witch who is facing being burned at the stake (“She turned me into a newt.” “A newt?” “I got better.”), the latter as twins Zoot and Dingo (“Oh, wicked, bad, naughty, evil Zoot! Oh, she is a bad person, and she must pay the penalty!”). Study up, because you won’t want to be embarrassed while surrounded by Pythonians at Videology who know every single word of this outrageously entertaining classic.
Music Box Theatre
239 West 45th St. between Broadway & Eighth Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through January 31, $37 - $159
In the 2006 film The Queen, writer Peter Morgan and director Stephen Frears imagine what went on behind closed doors as Queen Elizabeth II (an Oscar-winning Helen Mirren) and Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) debate how to publicly handle the tragic death of Princess Diana. In the 2015 Broadway drama The Audience, writer Morgan and director Stephen Daldry re-create private weekly meetings Queen Elizabeth II (a Tony-winning Mirren) has had with prime ministers going back to Winston Churchill, imagining what they talked about in the sitting room. Both of those productions looked back at the past; in the Olivier Award-winning drama King Charles III, writer Mike Bartlett and director Rupert Goold delve into the near future, imagining an England in which the queen has just died and her son, Prince Charles (Tim Pigott-Smith), finally ascends to the throne. “I never thought I’d see her pass away,” Kate Middleton (Lydia Wilson) says, to which Charles drolly replies, “I felt the same.” Charles almost immediately flouts tradition when, at his first weekly audience with Prime Minister Tristram Evans (Adam James), he refuses to merely listen to what Evans has to say but instead decides to use his royal authority to seriously question the efficacy of a bill that would severely limit freedom of the press. Evans is especially upset at Charles’s response given what happened to Princess Diana. “I would have thought of all the victims you’d feel the strongest something must be done,” Evans boldly declares. “As a man, a father, husband, yes I do. But that’s not who we are when sat with you,” Charles answers. “In here, not just am I defender of the faith but in addition I protect this country’s unique force and way of life.” Charles also chooses to meet with opposition leader Mark Stevens (Anthony Calf) on a weekly basis as well, causing the two men to cross the aisle and strategize together, since every bill must be signed by the king in order to become the law of the land, and Charles is opting to use this ceremonial right to keep the monarchy relevant. Meanwhile, the wild Prince Harry (Richard Goulding) has fallen for Jess (Tafline Steen), a young radical he met at a nightclub. It all makes Charles’s longtime press secretary, the rather stoic and old-fashioned James Reiss (Miles Richardson), more than a bit frustrated. “What am I?” Charles wonders now that he is king.
King Charles III arrived at the Music Box Theatre from across the pond with much fanfare (befitting royalty), but it turns out to be rather dry and ordinary, with a stiff upper lip that often gets in the way. As a tribute to old-time England, much of the dialogue is recited in blank verse, with Charles occasionally delivering brief soliloquies to the audience, but the Shakespearean elements (there are ghosts as well, among references to Macbeth and Hamlet) feel out of place, even on Tom Scutt’s medieval-style set, a castle room circled by fading portraits of previous kings. Perhaps part of the problem is that we are too familiar with the characters involved, which also include Camilla Parker Bowles (Margot Leicester); none of the actors completely capture who they are portraying, and the story is overly simplistic, particularly in its depiction of Charles’s sons, who have been real-life tabloid fodder since birth. Bartlett (Cock, Bull) and Goold (American Psycho, Macbeth) keep things too direct, not letting their imaginations go far enough, and they offer nothing new to the main argument over questions of personal and professional privacy when it comes to matters of the press. And Charles’s choice over whether to sign the bill is not exactly Paul Scofield’s Sir Thomas More searching his conscience over whether to sign the Oath of Supremacy to Robert Shaw’s King Henry VIII in A Man for All Seasons, but what is? The most interesting character is Jess, perhaps because she is fictional; maybe Bartlett and Goold would have fared better had they turned this into a roman a clef instead. Pigott-Smith (Educating Rita, Enron) is at his best when Charles is trying to figure out just where his responsibilities now lay, to both the royal family and England itself, but the story ultimately lets him down. King Charles III was an intriguing idea, but the execution, much like the real Prince Charles’s public persona, turns out to be rather dull and unsurprising.