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


New York City zoos are celebrating Halloween with their annual Boo at the Zoo events, with special family-friendly weekend programs (as well as on Halloween itself at some locations). At the Bronx Zoo, you’ll encounter the Jack O’Lantern Illumination — Creatures of the Night in Somba Village, the Carnival of Extraordinary Animals puppet shows at the Asia Plaza Theater, 3-D carved pumpkin displays in Dancing Crane Plaza, costume parades led by the Alice Farley Dance Company, Creepy Crafts Workshops, such Creature Chats as “Birds of Halloween: Owls and Vultures” and “Batty About Bats,” magic shows in the tent at Grizzly Corner, a Music for Aardvarks Halloween sing-along at the Terrace Café, Broadway at Boo presentations by cast members of On the Town and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, a hay maze, treat stations, a dinosaur safari, and more. At the Prospect Park Zoo, there will be a scavenger hunt, Wildlife Witch magic shows, animal meet-and-greets, pumpkin treats for dingoes and baboons, costumed characters, storytelling, a Spooky Barn, and a parade and dance party. And at the Queens Zoo, Boo at the Zoo takes place October 31 – November 2, with trick-or-treat stations, costumed animal characters, a haunted habitat, pumpkin picking, face painting, arts and crafts, enrichment classes about pumas and Andean bears, and Halloween critter meetings. (Note: The Staten Island Zoo’s Spooktacular took place October 18-19, and nothing is scheduled for the Central Park Zoo and New York Aquarium.)


(photo by Joan Marcus)

Pianist Stewart D’Arrietta and John R. Waters tell the story of John Lennon in music and words in THROUGH A GLASS ONION (photo by Joan Marcus)

Union Square Theatre
100 East 17th St. between Park Ave. S. & Irving Pl.
Tuesday - Sunday through February 22, $68-$88

The main poster image for Lennon: Through a Glass Onion shows a psychedelically colored John Lennon staring back at the viewer, with two huge white holes where his eyes would be. Too much of that round emptiness, unfortunately, can be found in the two-man musical play as well. British-born Australian actor and musician John R. Waters, who will turn sixty-six on December 8, the thirty-fourth anniversary of the murder of the Smart Beatle in New York City, and pianist Stewart D’Arrietta have been touring the stripped-down production for more than twenty years. For ninety minutes, Waters, dressed in jeans, a black T-shirt, and a leather jacket, does not try to imitate Lennon as much as embody his spirit in a kind of VH1 Storytellers manner, relating episodes from John’s life, told in the first person, to the songs he wrote. He also tries to get inside Lennon’s head, imagining what the musician and peace activist might have been thinking during some of those seminal moments, but these brief narrative vignettes often feel forced, especially when Waters is discussing the day of Lennon’s death, which open and close the show. (It’s more effective when Waters incorporates Lennon’s actual words, from interviews and writings.) The music, for the most part, is splendid; Waters lets Lennon’s skills as a wordsmith shine, the intelligent, intense lyrics reverberating throughout the hazy Union Square Theatre and inside your head. He wisely doesn’t even try to mimic Lennon’s singing voice or guitar playing, instead audaciously toying around with some of the music, reinventing such songs as “Help,” “Norwegian Wood,” “Crippled Inside,” and “Working Class Hero” in inventive, at times captivating ways, with a particular focus on the White Album.

In “How Do You Sleep?,” Lennon’s public attack on songwriting partner Paul McCartney, Anthony Barrett’s lighting casts Waters’s huge shadow on the back wall, highlighting the size of the boots Waters has dared to step into, but it also emphasizes one of the faults of the show; only a few times does it step out of its own boots, curiously using visual projections for just two songs (one of which, of course, is “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”). And the vast majority of the nearly three dozen tunes, from the Beatles and the Plastic Ono Band periods through John’s solo career, right up to Double Fantasy, are heard in snippets that merely tease. D’Arrietta, who has toured his own one-man show featuring the music of Tom Waits, is masterful at the keyboards, often sounding like an entire backing band, fleshing out the arrangements and contributing background vocals as well. Lennon: Through a Glass Onion is at its best when dealing with John’s relationship with Yoko, who many fans still insist was the cause of the Fab Four breakup; renditions of “Woman” and “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)” are among the highlights of the evening. “I’m just a lad from up north,” Waters says as Lennon at one point. John, of course, was so much more than that, but Lennon: Through a Glass Onion, though heartfelt, doesn’t quite add anything new about the man or the legend.



Deanna Walters shares her harrowing story in Cynthia Hill’s gripping PRIVATE VIOLENCE

PRIVATE VIOLENCE (Cynthia Hill, 2014)
Quad Cinema
34 West 13th St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
October 17-23

More than thirty years after Faith McNulty’s book The Burning Bed, which was adapted into a powerful and influential 1984 film starring Farrah Fawcett, Private Violence shows that there is still a long way to go in dealing with the very real issue of battered women. In the moving, emotional documentary, director-producer Cynthia Hill tells the story of Deanna Walters, an abused North Carolina housewife working with advocates Kit Gruelle and Stacy Cox to try to put Deanna’s dangerous and abusive husband behind bars so she can have a life with her young daughter. It’s horrifying to see photos of Deanna’s severely beaten face and body, then hear that law enforcement agencies and the legal system still often regard such cases as minor domestic disputes that do not require arrests and imprisonment. At the center of the controversy is the prevailing attitude that it is somehow the woman’s fault for not simply leaving her abusive partner, instead returning again and again for more physical and psychological torture, a premise that is proved wrong in many ways. Hill (The Guest Worker, Tobacco Money Feeds My Family) concentrates on the main narrative, not talking heads and statistics, following the developments procedurally, while more is revealed about Kit as well, who suffered her own torment at the hands of an abusive husband.

Victim advocate Kit Gruelle fights the system to help battered women gain justice in North Carolina

Victim advocate Kit Gruelle fights the system to help battered women gain justice in North Carolina

Sharply shot by photojournalist and cinematographer Rex Miller (Behind These Walls, Hill’s PBS food series A Chef’s Life), the award-winning film opens with a gripping six-minute scene that brings viewers right into the middle of a harrowing situation. “I sometimes refer to restraining orders as a last will and testament because battered women are the experts in what’s happening in their relationship, and we need — society — we need to treat them like the experts that they are,” Kit says shortly thereafter in a radio interview. “When she says, ‘He is going to kill me,’ or ‘He’s going to kill my family,’ or ‘He’s going to kill my cousin if he can’t get to me,’ we have got to step on the brakes and slow down and take that whole thing seriously.” A presentation of HBO Documentary Films, Private Violence had its New York premiere in June at the Walter Reade Theater in the “Women’s Rights and Children’s Rights” section of the 2014 Human Rights Watch Film Festival and is now playing October 17-23 at the Quad.


Mystery location in East Bushwick
Friday, October 31, third tier $50, 10:00 pm - 6:00 am

Tickets are running out for BangOn!NYC’s Warehouse of Horrors, a Halloween extravaganza to be held in a mystery site in Bushwick. This year’s frightening musical lineup features Break Science on the Live/Bass/Glitch/Trap Stage, Random Rab inspired by Burning Man, Zebra Katz, Space Jesus, Sleepy & Boo, an “aural hallucination” DJ set by Twin Shadow, the U.S. debut of PurpleDiscoMachine, and other acts. The party, which begins on Halloween night at ten o’clock and continues through six in the morning, also includes a silent disco, cuddle puddle chill zones, 3D art, a haunted house, carnival rides, a demonic performance by Team Kitty Koalition, circus and freak-show surprises, and more.


WATCHERS OF THE SKY (Edet Belzberg, 2014)
Lincoln Plaza Cinema
1886 Broadway between 62nd & 63rd Sts.
Opens Friday, October 17

In 1943, Polish-born lawyer Raphael Lemkin, determined to stop the mass atrocities that were being committed by governments around the world, came up with a name for what he was lobbying heavily to make an official crime recognized by the international community: genocide. In Watchers of the Sky, director and producer Edet Belzberg (Children Underground) explores Lemkin’s vision through the modern-day work of four people battling against the odds to end genocide and bring those responsible to justice. Inspired by Samantha Power’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, Belzberg follows Chad field director Emmanuel Uwurukundo of the UN Refugee Agency as he tries to find humanity among the horrific suffering in Darfur after losing most of his family in Rwanda; Transylvania-born Benjamin Ferencz, the chief U.S. prosecutor in the Einsatzgruppen Case in Nuremberg who today continues to implore the UN to do something about the horrifying crimes of aggression being perpetrated by multiple countries; Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court whose job was to gather evidence to arrest and try Sudan leader Omar al-Bashir for war crimes; and Power, the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations who uses Lemkin’s activism to attempt to end the inaction of the international community, which sits idly by as mass murder takes place right under its nose.

The inspiring, often shocking words of Raphael Lemkin are at the center of documentary about genocide

The inspiring, often shocking words of Raphael Lemkin are at the center of documentary about genocide

“What was amazing about Raphael Lemkin, a rural wunderkind of sorts, was that he saw the universal connection with victims and the universal capacity to carry out harms of great magnitude,” Power says in the film. “And that led him to have great conviction that no one was safe.” Meanwhile, Uwurukundo explains, “You feel this guilt on your heart. . . . This kind of experience you live with, you cannot explain to someone. Sometimes, it’s even, you feel ashamed that you didn’t do anything. But actually, you could not do anything,” echoing the words of Lemkin, who admitted, “How could I explain the pain of millions, the hopes for salvation from death? A tremendous conspiracy of silence poisoned the air. I was shamed by my helplessness.” Belzberg includes haunting animation, archival footage of Lemkin and excerpts from his notebooks, news reports documenting the ethnic cleansing of Armenians, Jews, Christians, Rwandans, Darfuris, Bosnians, and others, and scenes of Power, Ferencz, Ocampo-Moreno, and Uwurukundo facing what could have been faith-shattering obstacles as they try to make a difference in a mind-boggling world. “Why is the killing of a million a lesser crime than the killing of an individual?” Lemkin asked many years ago, and it’s frightening that such a question still needs to be answered today. Watchers of the Sky should be mandatory viewing for every member of the United Nations, each employee of The Hague, and all world leaders, who then must do something about these unspeakable, never-ending horrors.


MoMA Film, Museum of Modern Art, the Roy and Niuta Titus Theater 2
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Monday, October 20, $12, 7:00

There’s a reason why Bill Morrison calls his production company Hypnotic Pictures; for more than twenty years, the Chicago-born, New York-based experimental director has been making hypnotic, mesmerizing films that pair spectacular found footage in various states of decay with gorgeous original soundtracks. The results are as much about its main subjects — natural disasters, societal ills, Frankenstein — as about the history of film, particularly the physical celluloid itself, especially poignant now in the digital age. On October 20, Morrison will be at MoMA for the museum’s latest installment of Modern Mondays, discussing his work in conjunction with the midcareer retrospective “Re-Compositions,” comprising a rotating selection of his oeuvre shown in the Ronald S. and Jo Carole Lauder Building Lobby through March 31. The exhibition is supplemented with “Compositions,” a series of screenings through November 21 consisting of Morrison’s full-length and short films and videos, including The Great Flood, with the score performed live by composer Bill Frisell and Ron Miles, Tony Scherr, and Kenny Wollesen; the trio of All Vows, Just Ancient Loops, and Light Is Calling, with live musical accompaniment by cellist Maya Beiser; a collection of eight 16mm films made between 1990 and 1996; three dystopian works (Gotham, Dystopia, The Highwater Trilogy) made between 2004 and 2008; five 35mm projects from 2000 to 2005; and his 2002 masterpiece, Decasia.


jim gaffigan

Barnes & Noble Union Square
33 East 17th St. between Broadway & Park Ave. S.
Monday, October 20, free, 7:00

“What are my qualifications to write this book? None, really,” comedian Jim Gaffigan writes at the beginning of Food: A Love Story (Crown Archetype, October 21, $26), the follow-up to his 2013 bestseller, Dad Is Fat. “So why should you read it? Here’s why: I’m a little fat. Okay, to some I might not be considered that fat, but the point is, I’m not thin. If a thin guy were to write about a love of food and eating, I’d highly recommend that you do not read his book. . . . First of all, how do you know they really feel passionately about food? Well, obviously, they are not passionate enough to overdo it. That’s not very passionate. Anyway, I’m overweight.” The stand-up comic and married father of five, who has appeared in such films as The Love Guru and on Broadway in That Championship Season and has publicly shared his desire for Hot Pockets and bacon, among other edibles, will be at the Union Square Barnes & Noble on October 20 at 7:00 to read from and discuss his new book, which features such chapters as “Not Slim Jim,” “The Buffet Rule,” “Cup of Gravy,” “Salad Days,” “Kobe Beef: The Decadent Meat,” “French Fries: My Fair Potato,” and “Hot Pockets: A Blessing and a Curse.” Seating will begin at 5:00 on the fourth floor, with priority given to those who have purchased a copy of the book; the event will conclude with a signing.