This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

ICEBERG

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Very cool Iceberg will continue to “melt” in Garment District through February 24 (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Garment District Plaza
Broadway between 37th & 38th Sts.
Through February 24, free
garmentdistrict.nyc
iceberg video walkthrough

There are only a couple more days to enjoy Iceberg, a cool immersive and interactive installation on Broadway in the Garment District. ATOMIC3 and Appareil Architecture constructed the musical piece, which consists of a series of connected metal arches that emit blue and red light and the sounds of water dripping as people make their way through it; the more visitors in the work, and the faster they move, the more the lights change and the louder the sounds get, resulting in a warmer atmosphere. Created in collaboration with sound designer Jean-Sébastien Côté and interactive system designer Philippe Jean for a Montreal festival in 2012, Iceberg might look like a chic, Instagram-friendly tunnel, but it is also a reminder of the melting, calving polar ice caps and the damaging man-made effects of global climate change.

RUSSIAN DOLL: NATASHA LYONNE AND LESLYE HEADLAND IN CONVERSATION WITH EMILY NUSSBAUM

Russian Doll

Natasha Lyonne will discuss Russian Doll with co-creator Leslye Headland at 92nd St. Y on February 28

Who: Natasha Lyonne, Leslye Headland, Emily Nussbaum
What: Talk and screening
Where: Kaufmann Concert Hall, 92nd St. Y, 1395 Lexington Ave. between 91st & 92nd Sts., 212-415-5500
When: Thursday, February 28, $20-$45, 7:30
Why: On February 28, Russian Doll co-creators Natasha Lyonne and Leslye Headland will be at the 92nd St. Y to screen the first episode of their fab Netflix series and discuss the show, which they created with Amy Poehler. On February 28, Russian Doll co-creators Natasha Lyonne and Leslye Headland will be at the 92nd St. Y to screen the first episode of their fab Netflix series and discuss the show, which they created with Amy Poehler. Oh, wait, I already said that. In Russian Doll, Lyonne stars as Nadia Vulvokov, a New York City software engineer who finds herself in a never-ending circle of dying over and over again in a clever spin on Groundhog Day, continually going back to her thirty-sixth birthday party. Headland (Bachelorette, Sleeping with Other People) and Lyonne (Orange Is the New Black, Antibirth) have each written and directed episodes, which also feature Charlie Barnett, Dascha Polanco, Burt Young, Brendan Sexton III, Elizabeth Ashley, and Tompkins Square Park. Lyonne and Headland will be speaking with New Yorker television critic Emily Nussbaum, who shared her views on the series here.

MEET MISS BAKER: THE PRICE OF THOMAS SCOTT

(photo by Todd Cerveris)

Ellen Scott (Tracy Sallows) looks on as her husband, Thomas (Donald Corren), makes a point to her daughter, Annie (Emma Geer), in US premiere at the Clurman (photo by Todd Cerveris)

The Mint Theater
The Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row
410 West 42nd St. between Ninth & Tenth Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through March 23, $65
minttheater.org
www.theatrerow.org

Footloose meets A Man for All Seasons in the US debut of Elizabeth Baker’s 1913 play, The Price of Thomas Scott, which opened last night in a lovely Mint production at the Clurman at Theatre Row. It’s the first presentation of the Mint’s “Meet Miss Baker” series, a two-year program that will feature three fully staged works by the little-known British playwright in addition to readings of two one-acts and the publication of a book on Baker, similar to the company’s ongoing Tessa Davey Project. The Price of Thomas Scott, which previously had only one production more than a century ago, at the Gaiety Theatre in Manchester, takes place over two days in the early 1910s in the back parlor of a drapery, as clothing shops were called then, owned by Thomas Scott (Donald Corren), where he works with his wife, Ellen (Tracy Sallows), and daughter, Annie (Emma Geer), an expert hat trimmer who dreams of going to Paris to hone her craft and return to “bust up the town.” Meanwhile, the Scotts’ fifteen-year-old son, Leonard (Nick LaMedica), is hoping to sit for a scholarship; if he wins and the family can support some supplementary fees, it will send him to a better school that will put him on track for a respectable career in the civil service. “It’s hateful to be poor,” Annie says.

(photo by Todd Cerveris)

Annie (Emma Geer) wants to go dancing with May (Ayana Workman) in The Price of Thomas Scott (photo by Todd Cerveris)

Thomas is a devout churchgoer, a member of one of several conservative Protestant denominations known as Nonconformists in Great Britain. He’s ready to sell the store after decades of toil, waiting for an offer so he and Ellen can retire to the middle-class suburb of Tunbridge Wells, a print of which hangs on the wall, beckoning them. A deeply religious man, Thomas is firmly against dancing, believing it to be immoral; he also rejects drinking and theater. When Annie asks if she can go to a dance at the town hall with her friend May Rufford (Ayana Workman), her father is at first hesitant to even consider such a request. “You don’t suppose I like keeping her back, do you — saying no to her?” Thomas asks May’s father, George (Mark Kenneth Smaltz), continuing, “The flesh is weak at times, George, and the way of righteousness is hard.” So when a surprisingly large offer is made on the shop by Wicksteed (Mitch Greenberg), a longtime acquaintance working for a company opening dance halls in the neighborhood, Thomas is faced with a difficult dilemma, whether to stand by his conscience or sell and improve the family’s situation significantly.

Directed by Mint artistic director Jonathan Bank (Katie Roche, Temporal Powers), The Price of Thomas Scott is a well-staged drama that evokes the conflict at the center of Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons, in which Sir Thomas More must decide whether to go against his conscience and his religious beliefs in order to save his life and help his family. (Coincidentally, a fine revival of the play is now running at Theatre Row as well.) It also is reminiscent of Herbert Ross’s 1984 film, Footloose, in which a small Utah border town has banned dancing and rock music for religious reasons. Corren (Torch Song Trilogy, Balls) portrays Thomas not as a villain but as a deeply principled man who is tortured by the decision he must make; Corren’s body is as tense and rigid as Thomas is stubborn and unyielding. It is apparent Scott has never danced a day in his life and that he couldn’t even if he desired to. Still, as much as his friends and family wish him to sell, it is difficult not to admire the courage of his convictions. “He’s a dear old thing, of course, but you know he’s just frightfully old-fashioned,” Annie tells Johnny Tite (Andrew Fallaize), the Scotts’ lodger who is in love with her. However, Johnny’s friend Hartley Peters (Josh Goulding) says, “Every man has his price.”

(photo by Todd Cerveris)

Wicksteed (Mitch Greenberg) makes Scott (Donald Corren) an offer he thinks he can’t refuse in US debut of Elizabeth Baker play (photo by Todd Cerveris)

Sallows (Angels in America, Pushkin) is ever-so-gentle as Ellen, who is so devoted to her husband that she will not try to change his mind, no matter how much she wants to let Annie go to a dance, encourage Leonard to compete for the scholarship, and urge her husband to sell the shop. Amid the British suffragist movement, she is not ready to cast her vote against her husband, although the shop is arguably as much hers as his, and she deserves a say in the family’s financial future. The Mint’s sets are always exceptional, and Vicki R. Davis’s parlor room has a charm that posits the Scotts’ precarious station. The only disappointment is that the intermissionless ninety-minute play has only one location; watching Mint set changes during intermission has become an event valued by those in the know. As for meeting Miss Baker: Born in 1876, Baker was a teetotaler raised in a strict, religious lower-middle-class family that was in the drapery business; she didn’t go to the theater until she was nearly thirty and didn’t marry until nearly forty. The semiautobiographical nature of The Price of Thomas Scott imbues it with an honesty that is potent, with a slyly funny bonus at curtain call. “Meet Miss Baker” continues March 3 with readings of Edith and Miss Tassey, followed in summer 2020 by repertory performances of Partnership and her debut, the breakthrough Chains; The Price of Thomas Scott runs through March 23.

SEE IT BIG! COSTUMES BY EDITH HEAD: FUNNY FACE

FUNNY FACE

Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn) is not happy about fashionistas taking over the bookstore where she works in Funny Face

CinéSalon: FUNNY FACE (Stanley Donen, 1957)
Museum of the Moving Image
35th Ave. at 36th St., Astoria
Saturday, February 23, 4:00, and Sunday, February 24, 6:30
Festival runs through March 10
718-777-6800
www.movingimage.us

The Museum of the Moving Image’s “See It Big! Costumes by Edith Head” series continues February 23-24 with the “’s wonderful, ’s marvelous” 1957 romantic musical comedy Funny Face. When Quality magazine editor and publisher Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson) decides she’s after the next big thing, photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire playing a fictionalized version of Richard Avedon, who served as a consultant on the film and took the photos) asks, “Are there no models who can think as well as they look?” So they descend on a “sinister” bookstore in Greenwich Village, Embryo Concepts, to show the intellectual side of star model Marion (real-life model Dovima), but instead Dick believes that the bohemian bookstore’s mousy, idealistic sales clerk, Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn), might just be exactly what they’re looking for, a fresh face with “character, spirit, and intelligence.” Jo is steadfastly averse to the plan at first, until Dick convinces her that it would be a great opportunity for her to see Paris and go to a lecture by her favorite philosopher, professor Emile Flostre (Michel Auclair), the father of empathicalism. So Maggie, Dick, Jo, and their crew head over to France, where Jo will soon be strutting down the runway in a line specially created for her by superstar designer Paul Duval (Robert Flemyng). But once they get to the City of Lights, everything goes more than a bit haywire as haute couture battles counterculture chic.

FUNNY FACE

Audrey Hepburn is glamorous in Givenchy in classic musical

Partially based on an unproduced show by screenwriter Leonard Gershe called Wedding Bells — which was inspired by the real-life relationship between Avedon and model and actress Doe Nowell — and including four songs from George Gershwin’s 1927 musical, also called Funny Face (and starring Astaire and his sister, Adele), the film is an utter delight from start to finish. Despite an age difference of nearly thirty years, Hepburn and Astaire have genuine chemistry as their characters fall for each other. Unlike 1964’s My Fair Lady, in which Hepburn’s singing voice was dubbed by Marni Nixon, she does all of her own vocalizing in Funny Face, including a lovely solo on “How Long Has This Been Going On?,” and she uses her childhood dance training to fabulous effect in a stunning modern dance scene in a dark and smoky bohemian club. Astaire is a joy as Avery, particularly in the dazzling solo number “Let’s Kiss and Make Up,” performed with hat, raincoat, and umbrella. And Thompson, in her only major film role — she was already in the midst of her four-book children’s series about Eloise, the girl who lives in the Plaza Hotel in New York City — gets things going with the glorious opener “Think Pink!,” her character inspired by Harper’s Bazaar editors Carmel Snow and Diana Vreeland. Among the other songs by George and Ira Gershwin are “On How to Be Lovely,” “He Loves and She Loves,” “Clap Yo’ Hands,” and “Bonjour, Paris!” The costumes, of course, are spectacular, courtesy of Edith Head and Hubert de Givenchy, as are Eugene Loring’s choreography and Stanley Donen’s direction as the story roams around many of Paris’s iconic locations. Everything about the film, which was nominated for four Oscars but came up empty, is fun and fashionable, including cameos by model Suzy Parker; Carole Eastman, who would go on to write Five Easy Pieces and The Fortune; Hepburn’s mother; and a group of girls dressed up like French children’s book favorite Madeline.

Funny Face is screening at MoMI on February 23 at 4:00 and February 24 at 6:30; “See It Big! Costumes by Edith Head” continues through March 10 with such other films as René Clair’s I Married a Witch, Bob Fosse’s Sweet Charity, and Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief, The Birds, and Marnie. Head was nominated for thirty-five Academy Awards during her prestigious career, winning the Oscar eight times.

The Passion Project // BrandoCapote Workshop

Director Reid Farrington, writer Sara Farrington, and performer/choreographer Laura K. Nicoll will present work-in-progress Brando/Capote at Art House Productions

Director Reid Farrington, writer Sara Farrington, and performer/choreographer Laura K. Nicoll will present work-in-progress Brando/Capote at Art House Productions

Art House Productions, Inc.
262 17th St., Jersey City
February 21 - March 3, $20-$30
201-918-6019
www.arthouseproductions.org
www.ladyfarrington.com
www.reidfarrington.com

In 2011, we called The Passion Project “a breathtaking tour de force for both creator and director Reid Farrington and performer Laura K. Nicoll.” Farrington and Nicoll are bringing back the show, a mesmerizing and intimate multimedia reimagining of Carl Th. Dreyer’s 1928 silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc, for eight performances February 21 – March 3 as part of a special repertory program at Art House Productions in Jersey City. On March 1, 2, and 3, Reid and his wife and collaborator, writer Sara Farrington, will also be presenting the work-in-progress BrandoCapote, inspired by Truman Capote’s 1957 New Yorker profile of Marlon Brando while the star was making Sayonara in Tokyo. The piece is performed by Roger Casey, Sean Donovan, Lynn R. Guerra, Gabriel Hernandez, and Nicoll, who also serves as choreographer. The audience is encouraged to stay after the show and offer feedback.

“Though Brando is not a teetotaller, his appetite is more frugal when it comes to alcohol,” Capote writes in the article. “While we were awaiting the dinner, which was to be served to us in the room, he supplied me with a large vodka on the rocks and poured himself the merest courtesy sip. Resuming his position on the floor, he lolled his head against a pillow, drooped his eyelids, then shut them. It was as though he’d dozed off into a disturbing dream; his eyelids twitched, and when he spoke, his voice — an unemotional voice, in a way cultivated and genteel, yet surprisingly adolescent, a voice with a probing, asking, boyish quality — seemed to come from sleepy distances. ‘The last eight, nine years of my life have been a mess,’ he said.”

In addition, on February 27 at 7:00, Art House Productions will host a rough cut of a 3D movie of Reid’s 2014 multimedia work Tyson vs. Ali, a dream match-up pitting Mike Tyson against Muhammad Ali, using live actors, a boxing ring, and movable screens. Admission is pay what you can, and the film will be followed by an informal gathering with the cast and crew. (Tickets for The Passion Project and Brando/Capote are $20 each or $30 for both.)

BY THE WAY, MEET VERA STARK

(photo by Joan Marcus)

Gloria Mitchell (Jenni Barber) holds court as maids Vera Stark (Jessica Frances Dukes) and Lottie McBride (Heather Alicia Simms) look on in Lynn Nottage revival (photo by Joan Marcus)

The Pershing Square Signature Center
The Irene Diamond Stage
480 West 42nd St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves.
Tuesday-Sunday through March 3, $35 after $60
212-244-7529
www.signaturetheatre.org
www.meetverastark.com

As the name of Lynn Nottage’s 2011 play suggests, the title character in By the Way, Meet Vera Stark is an afterthought, an aside. And indeed, as the rowdy and wild Signature revival, which opened tonight at the Irene Diamond Stage, reveals, Stark is central in the fictional world of the play but represents the sad legacy of Tinseltown racism from the Golden Age of Hollywood through to the present day. The story begins in 1933, when “America’s Sweetie Pie,” glamorous actress Gloria Mitchell (Jenni Barber), is rehearsing with her maid, Vera Stark (Jessica Frances Dukes), for the lead in the upcoming Hollywood film The Belle of New Orleans, about an octoroon prostitute and her maid, Tilly. While Gloria has trouble with her lines, Vera has a firm handle on the part of the maid; in fact, she wants to audition for the film too. When Vera returns to her tiny apartment — a far cry from Gloria’s absurdly ritzy, overdecorated home — she tells one of her roommates, Lottie McBride (Heather Alicia Simms), about the movie. “A Southern epic! Magnolias and petticoats. You know what else it means, cotton and slaves,” Vera says. “Slaves? With lines?” Lottie responds excitedly. They both decide that getting a job in the film is worth it no matter how demeaning or stereotypical the part might be.

(photo by Joan Marcus)

Leroy (Warner Miller) attempts to charm Vera (Jessica Frances Dukes) in By the Way, Meet Vera Stark (photo by Joan Marcus)

Meanwhile, the third roommate, Anna Mae Simpkins (Carra Patterson), is passing as South American instead of black to date big-time director Maximillian Von Oster (Manoel Felciano). Later, outside the audition stage, Vera meets jazz and blues musician Leroy Barksdale (Warner Miller), who claims to be Von Oster’s Man Friday. When he hears that Vera is interested in playing Tilly, he belittles the role and she calls him a fool. “You find that funny, do ya?” he replies. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m up for a good laugh as much as the next fella, but why we still playing slaves. Shucks, it was hard enough getting free the first damn time.” Later, at a party, studio head Mr. Slavsick (David Turner) expresses his displeasure at hearing some of the details of the film, which he fears will violate the Hays Code, the industry’s morality guidelines that banned such elements as miscegenation, profanity, licentiousness, and white slavery. The second act moves ahead to 1973 and 2003 as we see the aftereffects of the events that occurred back in 1933, placing them in a contemporary context that questions just how much things have not changed in Hollywood and society at large.

(photo by Joan Marcus)

Carra Patterson, Heather Alicia Simms, and Warner Miller change roles for second act of Lynn Nottage play at the Signature (photo by Joan Marcus)

Nottage’s second work in her Signature residency (following a fine revival of Fabulation, or The Re-Education of Undine), By the Way, Meet Vera Stark tackles such issues as slavery, class, and racism by indicting everyone involved in the system. Vera, Lottie, and Anna Mae are not left unscathed by their participation in Hollywood’s portrayal of blacks, willing to sacrifice a part of themselves in order to be successes, even though their options are few in depression-era America. “It tickles me how half the Negroes in this town are running around like chickens without heads, trying to get five minutes of shucking and jiving time, all so they can say they’re in the pictures. It’s just lights and shadows, what’s the big deal?” Leroy says to Vera, adding, “If you wanna be in pictures, where you gonna begin, and where are you gonna end?” Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Nottage (Sweat, Ruined) has crafted clever caricatures of real Hollywood people, including Miriam Hopkins and Carole Lombard (Gloria), Hattie McDaniel and Ruby Dandridge (Lottie), Dolores del Rio and Carmen Miranda (Anna Mae), Adolph Zukor and Darryl Zanuck (Slavsick), Erich von Stroheim and King Vidor (Von Oster), and Theresa Harris and Nina Mae McKinney (Vera). Despite the slapstick, the characters are so believable that you might think that Vera Stark was a real actress; for its 2012 run at the Geffen Playhouse, a faux documentary was made, with Peter Bogdanovich discussing her impact on film and culture, fooling many people into thinking Vera actually existed.

Director Kamilah Forbes’s (Between the World and Me, Detroit ’67) production nails the screwball comedies of the 1930s in the first act and the world of celebrity in the second. Dede M. Ayite’s period costumes and Mia Neal’s on-target hair and wig design meld well with Clint Ramos’s sets, which range from Gloria’s posh pad to a 1973 talk show. Obie winner Dukes (Bootycandy, Yellowman) is a delight as Stark (originated by Sanaa Lathan at Second Stage in 2011), a woman who wants to push the boundaries while all too aware of its limitations. The rest of the solid cast takes on multiple roles, playing different parts in each act. Nottage (Mlima’s Tale, Intimate Apparel) makes her points, focusing on the little-known history of black actors in the early history of cinema, without getting heavy-handed; the play, which has been extended through March 10 at the Signature, is particularly relevant as the Oscars approach, a Hollywood awards show that only a few years ago was labeled #OscarsSoWhite.

JEWELRY: THE BODY TRANSFORMED

(photo by twi-ny/ees)

The missing digit is a major mystery in Met jewelry show (photo by twi-ny/ees)

Metropolitan Museum of Art, Met Fifth Ave.
1000 Fifth Ave. at 82nd St.
Daily through February 24, $12-$25
EmptyMet: VIP access February 23, 9:00 am, $50 (includes catalog)
212-535-7710
www.metmuseum.org

The Met’s “Jewelry: The Body Transformed,” which closes on Sunday, is a treasure trove of luxurious objects dating back more than three thousand years, from necklaces, pendants, and earrings to armbands, combs, and parure, from headdresses, breastplates, and bracelets to brooches, yashmaks, and daggers, divided into five themes: “The Divine Body,” “The Regal Body,” “The Transcendent Body,” “The Alluring Body,” and “The Resplendent Body.” But the biggest mystery you will take away from the gorgeous exhibition is, where are the missing toes? Two pairs of gold sandals from the Tomb of the Three Foreign Wives of Thutmose III, circa 1479-1425 BCE in Thebes, have only nine toe stalls each, the former without the right big toe, the latter sans the right little one. Was the Egyptian pharaoh, who ruled from the age of two to fifty-six, some kind of foot fetishist? And which two of the wives, Menwi, Merti, or Menhet, are a digit short? It’s more than a bit disconcerting, but you’ll probably get over it as you wander through the many other vitrines holding glittering items likely to catch your fancy. But then again, it may haunt you to your dying day.

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