In November 1959, Richard Hickock (Mark Pellegrino) and Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.) brutally murdered a Kansas family. After reading a small piece about the killings in the New York Times, New Yorker writer Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) sets out with his research assistant, Harper “Nell” Lee (Catherine Keener), to cover the story from a unique angle, which soon becomes the workings of the classic nonfiction novel In Cold Blood. Capote tells police chief Alvin Dewey (Chris Cooper) right off the bat that he cares only about the story, not what happens to the killers, which does not endear him to the local force. But when the murderers are captured, Capote begins a dangerous relationship with Smith, who comes to think of the writer as a true friend, while Capote gets caught up deeper than he ever thought possible. Based on the exhaustive biography by Gerald Clarke, Capote is a slow-moving character study featuring excellent acting and some interesting surprises, even for those who thought they knew a lot about the party-loving chronicler of high society and high living. Hoffman, who just died from a drug overdose, earned an Oscar for portraying the socialite author, who was played the following year by Toby Jones in Douglas McGrath’s Infamous, which was based on a book by George Plimpton. Capote, which was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Director (Bennett Miller), Best Supporting Actress (Keener), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Dan Futterman), is screening for free on March 8 at 2:00 at the NYPL’s recently renovated St. Agnes branch on the Upper West Side in a special tribute to Hoffman, a native New Yorker who left us well before his time, playing a longtime New Yorker who also died too young.
Minetta Lane Theatre
18 Minetta Lane between MacDougal St. & Sixth Ave.
Extended through April 6, $65-$85
The theater community has learned to expect the unexpected from British playwright Caryl Churchill, whose cutting-edge works have been showing up without warning in the in-boxes of artistic directors and company producers for decades. The seventy-five-year-old writer of such award-winning plays as Cloud Nine, Top Girls, and Serious Money redefines live storytelling yet again with her latest, Love and Information, just extended through April 6 at the Minetta Lane. The New York Theatre Workshop production is a series of snapshots relating the state of the world today, examined through the gathering, processing, and utilization of information among married couples, lovers, family members, professional colleagues, and best friends. The 110-minute intermissionless play consists of seven thematic sections, each one made up of funny, poignant, abstract, surreal, visceral, and potently recognizable vignettes that last between five seconds and five minutes; although the script gives them such mostly one-word titles as “Lab,” “Message,” “Secret,” “Torture,” “Irrational,” “Dream,” and “Recluse,” they are not identified onstage or in the program notes. The short dialogues take place in a white cube with a grid of some twenty-five thousand squares on five sides (calling to mind a human brain), opening only to the audience. In between each of the fifty-seven bits, in which fifteen actors portray one hundred different characters, the stage goes completely dark, bordered by a row of very bright lights around the edge, as the performers change costumes at lightning speed and the sets, which usually include a single element, from a chair or a bed to a table or a couch, are magically switched. It’s a kind of short attention span theater that evokes a more serious, though still playful, Laugh-In and Robot Chicken as the skits just keep on coming, seamlessly directed by longtime Churchill cohort James Macdonald, separated by the pitch-black accompanied by sounds, from familiar tunes to random found noises, that further one of the central themes, memory.
The tone is set from the very first vignette, in which a man is begging a woman to tell her a secret she is hiding from him. “Please please tell me,” he implores. “I’ll never tell, no matter what,” she responds, but eventually she whispers it in his ear so the audience can’t hear it. “Now what?” he repeats several times, a question that not only leads to the rest of the play but gets right to the point of what people do with information — first they want it, then they’re not always sure what to do with it. Later, a woman gets technical with her partner, saying, “What sex evolved to do is get information from two sets of genes so you get offspring that’s not identical to you. . . . So sex essentially is information.” He replies, “You don’t think that while we’re doing it, do you?” to which she says, “It doesn’t hurt to know it. Information and love.” Churchill and the immensely talented cast, which includes standout performances by Karen Kandel, John Procaccino, Kellie Overbey, Phillip James Brannon, Zoë Winters, and Randy Danson, take on science, religion, emotions, fanaticism, censorship, mathematics, pain, technology, and human relationships of all sorts in clever ways, constantly surprising the audience with each new piece, although the show is probably too long by about twenty minutes, but that’s only a minor quibble. In one of the longer sketches, a man and a woman are on a picnic date, and she describes in graphic detail how her job involves cutting the head off a chicken and slicing its brain for study, a worthy metaphor for what Churchill is doing on multiple levels with Love and Information.
VIOLENT SATURDAY (Richard Fleischer, 1955)
Anthology Film Archives
32 Second Ave. at Second St.
Saturday, March 8, 9:00, and Thursday, March 13, 7:00
Series runs March 7-17
It’s been a half dozen years since the Film Society of Lincoln Center paid tribute to director Richard Fleischer with a Spotlight at its annual Film Comment Selects series (including screenings of 10 Rillington Place and Mandingo) and Film Forum presented a brand-new 35mm print of Fleischer’s 1955 CinemaScope noir flick Violent Saturday for a special one-week run. So it’s time for another look at the Brooklyn-born director who also made such diverse films as Doctor Dolittle, Fantastic Voyage, Compulsion, and Soylent Green (as well as The Jazz Singer remake with Neil Diamond and Amityville 3-D) and whose father was Max Fleischer and uncle was Dave Fleischer, the two men behind the early Popeye and Betty Boop movies. Critics Nick Pinkerton and Nicolas Rapold of Overdue have joined forces with Anthology Film Archives for an eleven-day festival of nine of Fleischer’s lesser-known works that show off his wide range.
On March 8 and 13, the 35mm print of Violent Saturday will be screened; “Fleischer, an ace with the long frame,” Pinkerton wrote in his 2008 Village Voice review, “composes scrolling studies in horizontality, grabbing one of the most ravishing train shots in cinema.” All is not as it seems in the small town of Bradenville, Arizona. The mousy librarian (Sylvia Sidney) is stealing to pay off her debts, the married bank manager (Tommy Noonan) walks his dog late at night so he can peep on a hot-to-trot single woman (Virginia Leth), the mine boss’s son (Richard Egan) is a drunk who suspects his ritzy wife (Margaret Hayes) of cheating on him with a country-club playboy (Brad Dexter), an Amish family (led by Ernest Borgnine!) that lives nearby tries to keep to themselves, and a young boy (Billy Chapin) is embarrassed that his father (Victor Mature) worked in the copper mines instead of becoming a war hero like his best friend’s dad. But when three bank robbers (Stephen McNally, J. Carrol Naish, and Lee Marvin, puffing on an inhaler like Frank Booth in Blue Velvet) come to town to rid the safe of all its cash, all hell soon breaks loose and things do indeed get rather violent. In Violent Saturday, Fleischer reveals the subtle underbelly of a postwar America undergoing radical change while still standing by its old values, at least on the surface. And it’s great seeing Borgnine and Marvin together, in lovely CinemaScope; twelve years later they would reunite for Robert Aldrich’s classic WWII flick, The Dirty Dozen. “Overdue: Richard Fleischer” runs March 7-17 and also includes Trapped, Armed Car Robbery, Barabbas, See No Evil, The New Centurions, Conan the Destroyer, The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing, and 20,000 Leagues under the Sea.
SPIRITED AWAY (SEN TO CHIHIRO NO KAMIKAKUSHI) (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)
Landmark Sunshine Cinema
143 East Houston St. between First & Second Aves.
Friday, March 7, and Saturday, March 8, 12 midnight
Prepare to have your spirits lifted up and away in this sensational animated feature from Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki. Ten-year-old Chihiro (Rumi Hiiragi) is unhappy about moving to a new home despite her parents’ best efforts to convince her otherwise. When her father (Takashi Naito) takes a wrong turn on the road, the family ends up in an oddly deserted village that Chihiro soon finds out is a lot more than it seems. Chihiro’s adventures through this dreamlike, surreal, magical place filled with bizarre characters and evil beings are unforgettable, with nuances and references from such diverse works as The Wizard Of Oz and The Seventh Seal. The sheer visual beauty of the animation is staggering; many of the backgrounds are reminiscent of Impressionism. Joe Hisaishi’s maudlin music is way overpraised, as usual, but this Japanese box-office champ deservedly won the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival and was named Best Asian Film at the Hong Kong Film Awards. As with the best animated films, you don’t have to be a kid to fall in love with Spirited Away, which explains why the Landmark Sunshine is screening the Japanese-language version, with English subtitles, on March 7-8 as part of its ongoing Sunshine at Midnight series, held in conjunction with the theatrical release of what might be Miyazaki’s swan song, The Wind Rises.
Grand Central Terminal, Vanderbilt Hall
89 East 42 St.
March 6-8, free
Just as Grand Central Terminal recently celebrated its centennial, Japan will commemorate the last one hundred years of its cultural heritage at the 2014 edition of Japan Week, held in GCT’s historic Vanderbilt Hall. Videos will take visitors to Kumamoto City, Emperor Nintoku’s Tomb in Sakai City, and the resort prefectures of Nagano and Niigata in addition to honoring the one hundredth anniversary of the Tokyo Philharmonic, which will be making its U.S. debut March 11 at Alice Tully Hall, conducted by Eiji Oue. There will also be a focus on Jewish refugees in Japan with the short documentaries Transit to Freedom, The Chiune Sugihara Story, and They Called It Heaven. A photo slideshow looks back one hundred years through the lens of T. Enami and others, and on Thursday at 2:25 and Friday at 2:15 you can try on traditional Japanese armor. Sake from fifteen regions will be available at a one-hundred-year-old Taisho-themed bar, an amezaiku artist will create folk sculptures out of candy, and exhibitors will be displaying the latest in Japanese watches, television, food, and tourism. Tribute will also be paid to Grand Central’s sister station, Tokyo Station, which turns one hundred this year. In conjunction with the festivities, Japanese Restaurant Week continues through March 16, with more than two dozen restaurants featuring special regional dishes, including Koi Soho (squid sashimi), Hakubai (Miyazaki beef), Megu New York (Kobe beef), Sakamai (black rice vinegar), Torishin (kishu bincho charcoal), Wasan (mizutaki), Sushiden (Edomae sushi), Restaurant Nippon (fugu), and Sushi Azabu (sea urchin).
In her bold, innovative works, California-born, New York–based choreographer Faye Driscoll explores ritual and relationships between the performers themselves as well as the audience. Anything can happen in Driscoll’s pieces, which have included such successes as You’re Me, 837 Venice Boulevard, and There is so much mad in me. Her latest work, Thank You for Coming, which makes its debut March 6–15 at Danspace, is the first of a trilogy — the working titles are “Dance,” “Play,” and “Space” — that continues her examination of the mind and body as well as society’s interconnectivity. An early version of “Dance” was presented last year as part of the 92nd St. Y’s “Stripped/Dressed” series, and it featured five performers locked together for much of the time; they also interacted with the audience directly.
Driscoll is also a master collaborator, working with a wide range of musicians, visual artists, designers, and theater directors. Last year she choreographed Nick Vaughan and Jake Margolin’s “A Marriage: 1 (Suburbia),” and this year they return the favor by contributing their unique visual design to Thank You for Coming. “Nick and I have absolutely loved Faye’s work for a long time, and getting to collaborate with her on this process from such an early stage in development has been a pretty amazing experience,” Margolin explained. “It’s a process unlike any we’ve been a part of before and has led to some really unexpected and exciting stuff. It has been really eye opening in terms of what a process can be and what it can look like. It’s been inspiring watching as Faye unflaggingly chases rigor and perfection in material that still manages to feel spontaneous and organic.” (Nick and Jake’s new exhibition, “A Marriage: 2 (West-er),” runs March 8 – April 12 at the Invisible Dog in Brooklyn.) Driscoll discussed her process, collaboration, fundraising, and more a few days before Thank You for Coming was set to open.
twi-ny: You presented an early version of this work last year at the 92nd St. Y. How has it changed since then? I see that the dancers now include Alicia Ohs, who worked with you on You’re Me, and Sean Donovan, who made a guest appearance in Nick and Jake’s “A Marriage: 1 (Suburbia).”
Faye Driscoll: Yes, it’s funny because for me in some sense I think the Y version was complete in and of itself. But the cast shifted, designers got involved, and new ideas emerge and old ideas either went deeper or got thrown out. So you will still see the Y material, but hopefully it is also a totally new work. What’s exciting to me about this project is that it reflects my process of generating a lot of ideas and then evolving them into each other and making new iterations and offshoots that will continue forward into my next work — because it’s an interconnected series. With Thank You for Coming (the series) I have set up a process of producing work that reflects my process of creating work — which is often making things in excess, and with many possible versions — and in the meantime I am building a company of performers and designers around a long-term project.
twi-ny: Thank You for Coming continues your very direct relationship with the audience and your exploration of social experience and interconnectedness, both in title and execution. Why do you think you are so drawn to this aspect of performance?
FD: I think I have always been interested in performance as a ritual of expression, protest, transformation, and basically one gigantic act of mirroring with the performers and audience. I don’t buy this idea that in order to be socially engaged you have to adapt to a certain way of being; I think we are all socially engaged whether we like it or not — or maybe whether we choose to deal with it or not. I am not saying I am totally dealing with it in this work, but I am trying. I am trying through my own formal and aesthetic experiments to expand my perception of this interconnection, and maybe others will feel that or maybe they won’t.
twi-ny: In 2009, you were one of fifty artists chosen by the New Museum for its “Younger Than Jesus” triennial, and just recently you were named a Guggenheim Fellow. What was it like when you found out about the latter? What kind of impact has it had on you?
FD: I have been blushing all year from having gotten the Guggenheim. I feel so honored. It just makes me want to make my work stronger. There can be some internal pressure involved. But I have always felt pressure when I am making things; it’s just that I feel a little bit more visible now.
twi-ny: Like so many choreographers, you have turned to Kickstarter to help finance projects. What has that experience been like? Are you a good fundraiser?
FD: Please donate! That is what Kickstarter has done to me! Which maybe is an essential trait of a good fundraiser? The willingness to ask and keep asking without shame. Being a choreographer, you have to be it all — grant writer, fundraiser, administrator, stage manager, public speaker, floor sweeper. It’s truly exhausting. I think I am a better choreographer than I am any of the other hats I wear, but I try hard because it’s what the work needs. And I have more help now than I ever have and I am super grateful for that. Even though Kickstarter is extremely stressful, it’s also really amazing. We have more than two hundred people backing us — that feels pretty good. It takes the power out of some monolithic “funding entity” and into our own hands. But doing a Kickstarter campaign can seriously consume your life. I really want us to reach our goal — please back us! See, I’m obsessed.
twi-ny: You have collaborated with a wide range of artists, from Young Jean Lee and Nick and Jake to Taylor Mac and Cynthia Hopkins. What are the secrets of being a strong collaborator?
FD: I love collaborating with these people. I learn so much and it keeps me on my toes. I think being a good collaborator is having the willingness to serve the project, not just your ideas and tastes.
twi-ny: Do you have a dream collaborator?
FD: I am dying to work with Ann Hamilton.
twi-ny: In 2007, you told Feministing that in fifty years, you’d like to be remembered as a rebellious, honest, dangerous choreographer who had a lot of fun. How do you think you’re doing so far?
FD: Oh wow. I’m not sure. OK, I think Fun is my F word. I think it can be a big no-no in the avant-garde world. And honestly sometimes in my personal life I have a hard time relaxing. But in my work I have a lot of fun. Maybe because then I am taking fun seriously? Not sure. I think there is something in fun and play that is a kind of key to all transformation. And isn’t really good fun also a little bit dangerous?
(Ed. note: Advance tickets for Thank You for Coming are sold out, but there will be a wait list before every show beginning at 7:15. You can contribute to the production via Kickstarter here.)