200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, April 4, free, 5:00 - 11:00
The April edition of the Brooklyn Museum’s First Saturdays program celebrates the opening of its latest exhibit on Jean-Michel Basquiat, “Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks,” a collection of 160 pages from his never-before-shown notebooks, focusing on his use of text and image, along with works on paper and large-scale paintings. The free evening will feature live musical performances by the James Francies Trio and Lion Babe and a DJ set by Natasha Diggs; a curator talk by Tricia Laughlin Bloom about the neew exhibition; a Basquiat crown-making workshop; a Basquiat-inspired writing workshop led by Tom La Farge and Wendy Walker; Cave Canem “Poetry Meets Art” readings from LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs and Roger Reeves; a children’s book presentation with illustrator Javaka Steptoe discussing Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat; a screening of Tamra Davis’s 2010 documentary Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child; a performance of Dark Swan by Urban Bush Women; and an interactive performance and dance workshop with W.A.F.F.L.E. (We Are Family for Life Entertainment). In addition, you can check out such exhibitions as “Revolution! Works from the Black Arts Movement,” “Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic,” “The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago,” and “Chitra Ganesh: Eyes of Time.”
Music Box Theatre
239 West 45th St. between Broadway & Eighth Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through August 9, $40 - $139
“I wrote this play because I had this image of a woman standing up at a women’s meeting saying, ‘I’ve never been so unhappy in my life,’” Wendy Wasserstein told Time magazine in a 1989 interview about The Heidi Chronicles. “Talking to friends, I knew there was this feeling around, in me and in others, and I thought it should be expressed theatrically. But it wasn’t. The more angry it made me that these feelings weren’t being expressed, the more anger I put into that play.” Twenty-six years later, The Heidi Chronicles is being revived on Broadway for the first time, in a production directed by Tony winner Pam MacKinnon (A Delicate Balance, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) that opened at the Music Box Theatre on March 19. But little of that anger is evident in what turns out to be a kind of tepid time-capsule experience that lacks energy and fervor; instead, it feels like an outdated story that is past its prime. Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss stars as Heidi Holland, a smart woman who is considering having it all — both a career and a family — as she comes of age in the 1960s and ’70s and then has to reconfigure her hopes and dreams through the 1980s. In the first act, Wasserstein (The Sisters Rosensweig, An American Daughter) follows Heidi as she attends a high school dance in Chicago in 1965, meets the aggressive Scoop Rosenbaum (Jason Biggs) at a 1968 rally for Eugene McCarthy, goes to a women’s meeting in Ann Arbor in 1970, and protests the paucity of women artists in a 1974 exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago as she searches for her purpose in life. In the second act, all of which takes place in New York in the 1980s, she goes to a baby shower, appears on a morning TV show, and has a confab at the Plaza as she tries to come to grips with the decisions she’s made as she approaches forty without a husband, children, or a real home base.
Each act begins with Heidi at a podium, delivering a lecture in 1989 on such overlooked women artists as Sofonisba Anguissola, Artemisia Gentileschi, Clara Peeters, and Lilly Martin Spencer. Those scenes show Heidi as a strong, intelligent, confident, and funny woman, more than comfortable in her own skin. However, in the flashbacks, she is lost and uncertain, most often an observer who doesn’t take action, allowing others — primarily but not exclusively men — to take control. Heidi is more of a humanist than a feminist, as is the play itself, but in 2015, with more opportunities than ever before for women — although there’s obviously still a long, long way to go — the conflicts Heidi faces don’t seem as dramatic as they might have been in 1989, and her diffidence or sometimes seeming paralysis denies the narrative some necessary conflict. We never quite understand why she is best friends with Susan (Ali Ahn), who is far more concerned with appearances than real depth; why she is drawn so much to the egocentric Scoop, even after he’s married; and what she truly gets out of her long friendship with Peter Patrone (Bryce Pinkham). All three supporting roles are played as caricatures who don’t seem to fit in with Heidi’s life. and the songs Wasserstein uses for each scene have become clichéd, from Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” and Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” to John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Janis Joplin’s “Take a Piece of My Heart,” all of which today are overkill, substituting for what we don’t see in Heidi. Like the character she portrays, Moss is at her best when delivering the illustrated lectures, relaxed and charming, someone you want to spend time with, but in the memory scenes, she is as understated and frustrating as Heidi. Rising star Tracee Chimo steals the show, playing four very different characters, Fran, Molly, Betsy, and April, making the most memorable statement of the evening when she declares, “Either you shave your legs or you don’t.” Heidi, and Moss, falls somewhere in the middle, and even if that’s the point, it doesn’t make for gripping theater. In 1989, The Heidi Chronicles earned Wasserstein the Pulitzer Prize, and she became the first solo woman to win a Tony for Best Play. But it feels very different all these years later.
Who: James B. Harris
What: “Overdue,” critics Nick Pinkerton and Nicolas Rapold’s ongoing series that pays tribute to overlooked films and filmmakers
Where: BAMcinématek, BAM Rose Cinemas, 30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Pl. & St. Felix St., 718-636-4100
When: April 1-6
Why: Writer, director, and producer James B. Harris is finally given his due in this six-day series at BAM featuring eight of his nine films, including Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing, Lolita, and Paths of Glory and Don Siegel’s Telefon (starring Charles Bronson) in addition to four of his five directorial efforts, The Bedford Incident with Sidney Poitier and Richard Widmark, the Sleeping Beauty update Some Call It Loving, and Fast-Walking and Cop, both starring James Woods. The only film left out is the 1993 crime drama Boiling Point. The eighty-six-year-old Harris will be at BAM for Q&As following the April 1 screening of Some Call It Loving and the 6:30 screening of Cop on April 4 in addition to introducing the 9:30 showing of Paths of Glory on April 4, a film in which he also makes a cameo.
Who: Best Coast
What: Northside Festival
Where: Brooklyn Live at the Inlet, 50 Kent Ave.
When: Saturday, June 13, $30, 5:00 - 10:00
Why: Singer/songwriter/guitarist Bethany Cosentino and guitarist Bobb Bruno, better known as Best Coast, are hitting the road in support of their third full-length, California Nights (Harvest, May 4). The follow-up to 2010’s Crazy for You and 2013’s The Only Place, the disc, which explores the darker sides of Los Angeles, features such tracks as “Feeling OK,” “Fine without You,” “Jealousy,” and “Wasted Time.” “It’s about a journey, accepting the things you have no control over,” Cosentino says of the record. “It’s about dealing with life like an adult, and at the end of the day, reminding yourself that there really is no reason to be sad, and you have every right to feel okay.” The California duo will be in New York City on June 13 for the Northside Festival, playing Brooklyn Live at the Inlet with Built to Spill, Alvvays, and Bully.
Who: Karen, Katherine & Jen, Paul Bertolino, Jaime Dejesus, Sarah Factor, Samantha Feldman, Andi Rae Healy, 5j Barrow, Joanna Levine, Jeff Litman, Andrea Nardello, Abby Payne, Gerianne Pérez, Gerry Rosenthal, Jason Spiewak, Kate Steinberg, Jenn Summers, Casey Solomon, Maddy Wyatt, and others
What: The “Leave a Lasting Mark” Concert Series presents “Rumours: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac”
Where: The Bitter End, 147 Bleecker St. between Thompson St. & La Guardia Pl., 212-673-7030
When: Tuesday, March 31, suggested donation $10, 7:00
Why: Nearly two dozen artists will be at the Bitter End on March 31 performing the songs of Fleetwood Mac, including the entire classic Rumours album, as a fundraiser for the Foundation Fighting Blindness, whose stated mission “is to drive the research that will provide preventions, treatments, and cures for people affected by retinitis pigmentosa, macular degeneration, Usher syndrome, and the entire spectrum of retinal degenerative diseases.” The organization’s annual New York City VisionWalk will take place April 18 beginning at the Central Park Bandshell.
WHITE GOD (FEHÉR ISTEN) (Kornel Mundruczó, 2014)
IFC Center, 323 Sixth Ave. at Third St., 212-924-7771
Lincoln Plaza Cinema, 1886 Broadway between 62nd & 63rd Sts., 212-757-2280
Opens Friday, March 27
You can add Hagen, the protagonist of Kornel Mundruczó’s White God, to the list of great canine characters in film, joining such esteemed company as Lassie, Benji, Beethoven, Sounder, Old Yeller, and, of course, Cujo. Played by year-old siblings Luke and Bodie, who were discovered by animal coordinator Teresa Miller in the classifieds, Hagen is man’s prototypical best friend — or in this case, the constant companion of thirteen-year-old classical trumpeter Lili (Zsófia Psotta) — smart and caring, loyal and loving, until things go really, really wrong. (Miller trained under her father, Karl Lewis Miller, who worked on such films as They Only Kill Their Masters, Dracula’s Dog, Call of the Wild, Babe, Cujo, and the Beethoven movies.) When her mother (Lili Horváth) and her new husband go away for a few months, Lili is forced to stay with her bitter, unhappy father (Zsótér Sándor), who refuses to register Hagen with the authorities and pay the dog tax. (In Hungary, mixed-breed dogs are taxed but purebred are not in an effort to control the feral population.) He throws Hagen out of their car, leaving him by the side of the road. At first Lili and Hagen try to find each other, but soon the dog becomes entangled in a series of dangerous situations, fighting for his life — and then fighting back, for mistreated mutts everywhere.
Winner of the Un Certain Regard Prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, White God is a powerful parable about the treatment of the homeless, of immigrants, of all those eking out existence on the fringes of society, the dogs representing slaves and other victims of colonialism, racism, and persecution. However, it is also overly manipulative and heavy-handed, the story line echoing the Planet of the Apes series but without enough nuance. (The film also evokes such classics as Spartacus and The Birds in theme and A Clockwork Orange in format.) Mundruczó (Pleasant Days, Johanna), who cowrote the film with regular collaborators Kata Wéber and Viktória Petrányi, shows tremendous skill with the dogs, particularly Hagen (who shares his name with a global pet product company) and his stray friend, an adorable Jack Russell Terrier (Marlene), making them deep, believable characters, but as the film grows more technically adept, it also gets colder, more distant, the human characters less realistic. The last half hour or so goes back and forth between being fierce and terrifying to overbearing and preachy. It certainly makes its point, though — and it’s likely to leave you thinking twice before you yell at your dog again.
Passover doesn’t begin until April 3, but you can get a head start on the holiday, in which Jews around the world retell the story of the exodus from Egypt, by visiting the Morgan Library and checking out its lovely exhibition “Hebrew Illumination for Our Time: The Art of Barbara Wolff,” comprising the first two illuminated Hebrew texts to join the Morgan’s celebrated collection of illuminated manuscripts, as well as its very first Haggadah. In 2011, New York artist Barbara Wolff was commissioned by the Rose family to create an illuminated Haggadah, the book used at the Passover seder that contains prayers, hymns, historical tales, biblical scenes, and other elements that expand upon the Jews’ enslavement and their battle with the Pharaoh more than three thousand years ago. Working with her unique blend of silver, gold, and platinum foils on vellum, Wolff designed beautiful artwork to accompany Izzy Pludwinski’s Ashkenazic Hebrew calligraphy and Karen Gorst’s English captions, incorporating flora and fauna native to the Middle East along with the standard elements of the Passover seder, including such symbolic food as the Paschal lamb, matzah, and bitter herbs. Each page is exquisitely designed: A large eye oversees a pyramid in which slaves are shown hard at work, more than twenty colorful ancient Egyptian gods are gathered together in the desert, and the ten plagues are depicted above and below a lush gold area featuring silver Kiddush cups spilling drops of red wine. The Rose Haggadah is a far cry from the familiar, old-fashioned blue-and-white Maxwell House Haggadah that was so prevalent throughout much of the twentieth century. Wolff’s remarkable sixty-four-page book honors Jewish tradition in a format more associated with Christianity, bringing new life to an annual ritual that honors the past while projecting hope for the future.
The exhibit also includes Wolff’s illuminated version of Psalm 104, “You Renew the Face of the Earth,” ten elegant works in which she uses platinum, silver, and gold leaf on goatskin parchment. “This great hymn to the divine in nature directs our awareness to the miracle of the world,” Wolff writes in the free exhibition handout. “The sentiments expressed in this psalm have particular relevance for our own era, a time of growing consciousness of the profound effect of human enterprise on nature, and of questioning our role as steward of our planet.” The ten illuminations include the signs of the zodiac, which represent the twelve tribes of Israel; golden Hokusai-like waves above rising mountains; a silver leviathan encapsulating smaller sea creatures; and twenty-eight Israeli birds in and around a Tabor oak, with every animal specifically identified. Wolff adds commentary about each folio; for example, in “To Bring Forth Bread,” which shows grains growing, she writes, “Wild grass, ancestor of man’s most ancient cultivated crop, became the foundation of civilization. . . . Shining fields of wheat and filled granaries are symbols of security, peace, and plenty.” The exhibition is supplemented by illuminated manuscripts from the Morgan’s collection that influenced Wolff, as well as a twenty-two-minute film that highlights her intricate, intensely dedicated working process. In conjunction with the exhibition, Vassar professor Marc Michael Epstein will deliver the talk “Skies of Parchment, Seas of Ink: Barbara Wolff and her Place in the History of Jewish Manuscript Illumination” on April 1 at 6:30; on April 12 at 2:00, Wolff will lead the workshop “The Midas Touch”; on April 15 at 7:00, composer and accordionist Merima Ključo, artist Bart Woodstrup, and pianist Seth Knopp will team up for the multimedia presentation “The Sarajevo Haggadah: Music of the Book”; and on April 18 at 2:00, Stephanie Krauss will lead the workshop “My Very Own Illuminated Manuscript — Part 2: Putting It Together” for children eight and older.