RIGHT NOW, WRONG THEN (지금은맞고그때는틀리다) (Hong Sangsoo, 2015)
7 Ludlow St. between Canal & Hester Sts.
June 24 - July 1
It’s déjà vu all over again in South Korean writer-director Hong Sangsoo’s latest masterpiece, Right Now, Wrong Then. Hong’s previous films, such as Tales of Cinema, The Day He Arrives, In Another Country, and Oki’s Movie, have explored the nature of cinematic storytelling: often, a film director is the protagonist, and scenes and characters repeat from different points of view. In Right Now, Wrong Then, Hong again plays with the temporal aspects of narrative; he essentially starts the film over at the halfway point, switching around the words of the title and repeating opening credits. Jung Jaeyoung won several Best Actor awards for his portrayal of art-house director Ham Chunsu, who has accidentally arrived a day early to the Korean province of Suwon, where he will take part in a Q&A following a screening of one of his films. Wandering around the town, he enters the blessing hall of an old palace and meets Yoon Heejung (Kim Minhee), a shy, aspiring painter. They talk about their lives, their hopes and dreams, as they go out for coffee and tea, eat sushi and drink soju, and meet up with some friends of Heejung’s. And then they do it again, primarily scene by scene, with variations in dialogue and temperament that offer sly twists on what happened in the first half. It’s as if Chunsu and Heejung are given the kind of second chance that one doesn’t get in real life, only in movies, or maybe Hong is showing us an alternate universe where myriad possibilities exist.
Winner of the Golden Leopard for Best Film at Locarno, Right Now, Wrong Then moves at the patient, naturalistic pace and rhythm of real life, with numerous long scenes lasting between five and ten minutes with no cuts. Cinematographer Park Hongyeol, who has photographed six other Hong films, occasionally zooms in on a character, a tree, or other objects, the movement of the camera often slightly awkward, reminding us that we are watching a movie. However, the camera placement and movement, which are decided by Hong, is not what we’re used to in conventional cinema; Park and Hong eschew standard speaker-reaction back-and-forth shots, instead allowing the camera to linger in the same spot for a while, or focus in on the person not talking, or concentrate on a minute detail that appears insignificant. Adding to the film’s vitality, Hong writes each scene the same day that it’s shot, resulting in a freshness that is intoxicating. Jung (Our Sunhi, Moss) is a marvel as Chunsu, a quirky, jittery figure who is not quite as cool or humble as he might think he is, while former model Kim (Hellcats, Very Ordinary Couple) is sweetly engaging as the tentative Heejung, who is trying to find her place in the world. Meanwhile, popping up every once in a while is Jeong Yongjin’s playful, carnivalesque music, as if we’re watching life’s endless circus, which, of course, we are.
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, July 2, free, 5:00 - 11:00
The Brooklyn Museum honors America’s 240th birthday with an evening of free programs dedicated to free speech and social change on July 2. The monthly First Saturday events will feature live performances by Pablo Helguera’s project El Club de Protesta (the Protest Club), Bread and Puppet Theater (Underneath the Above Show #1), Dennis Redmoon Darkeem (smudging ritual, interactive Good Trade), and DJ Chela; a screening of Judd Ehrlich’s Keepers of the Game (followed by a talkback with cast members Louise and Tsieboo Herne); highlights from the “LGBTQ New Americans” oral history project (followed by a talkback); storytelling with percussionist Sanga of the Valley; a pop-up gallery talk for “Agitprop!”; a curator tour of the American art collection with Connie Choi; a hands-on workshop in which participants can make their own personal flag using cloth collages; and interactive “Legislative Theatre” with Theatre of the Oppressed NYC. In addition, you can check out such exhibitions as “Disguise: Masks and Global African Art,” “Tom Sachs: Boombox Retrospective, 1999–2016,” and “Stephen Powers: Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (to a Seagull).”
407 West 43rd St. between Ninth & Tenth Aves.
Tuesday – Sunday through July 17, $79-$89
“Now, I know that many of you folks out there do read the paper. But I wish you would read all the papers. You just read some of the papers — where they callin’ me the Negro Lenny Bruce. You gotta’ read those Congo papers where they callin’ Lenny Bruce — the white Dick Gregory!” Dick Gregory (Joe Morton) declares near the beginning of Turn Me Loose, Gretchen Law’s smart, essential play about the life and career of the comedian, activist, and self-described wellness guru born Richard Claxton Gregory in St. Louis in 1932. The Emmy-winning, Tony-nominated Morton is riveting as Gregory, going back and forth between club gigs and interviews from the 1960s to the present day, when he addresses the audience directly as an old man, looking back at his failures and accomplishments. (Fortunately, the play avoids his numerous forays into conspiracy theories.) Gregory talks about his life with his wife and children, his goals for financial success and social change, and his friendships with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Medgar Evers. In fact, the title is taken from Evers’s final words: “Turn me loose.” As Morton ambles across Chris Barreca’s stripped-down set, consisting of a microphone, table, stool and phone, the play gets to the heart of what Gregory was and is about. “I’m out to find the truth. Expose the tricks,” he says. Discussing the ongoing battles between black and white, Muslims and Christians, Jews and Palestinians, and liberals and conservatives, he admonishes, “When you accept injustice, you become injustice. When you coexist with filth? You become filth. It’s all of those myths you’re buyin’ into.” Other gems include “Bein’ white ain’t got nothin’ to do with color,” “My tongue . . . was my switchblade. My humor was my sword,” “I believe that information is salvation,” and “When I grew up in St. Louis, I thought that poverty was the worst disease on the earth. I soon learned that racism is the worst disease on the face of the earth.”
Law (The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of Her God, Al Sharpton for President) and director John Gould Rubin (Hedda Gabler, Playing with Fire) zero in on the key moments of Gregory’s career: being invited by Hugh Hefner to perform at the Playboy Club in Chicago in 1961, where he faced a harsh crowd of white southerners, and demanding that if Jack Paar wanted him to do stand-up on the Tonight show, he had to be allowed to sit on the couch and speak with Paar afterward, something no black entertainer had done before. He also makes brilliant use of the word “n-gger.” He celebrates the way Mark Twain employed it (“Mark Twain was so brilliant! He gave a n-gger a name! ‘N-gger Jim.’ And then white folks had to read about a black man with a name. A person.”) and confronts the audience with it. After being heckled at the Playboy Club, he turns to the Westside Theatre audience and says, “How about you all out there? Anyone out there care to stand up and call me a n-gger? Come on now. Don’t miss out on a great opportunity. Stand up! Come on. Stand up! Go ahead. Get on up. Get on up and call me — a n-gger! It’s only a word.” Of course, at that moment you could hear a pin drop, aside from some nervous laughter. (The night I went, the crowd was about half white and half black.) Morton, who has starred in such films as The Brother from Another Planet and Lone Star, such television series as Scandal and Eureka, and the Broadway plays Hair, Art, and Raisin, does not go into full impersonation mode but effectively captures Gregory’s unique spirit in his every movement. However, Turn Me Loose is not quite a one-man show; John Carlin, who is white, also appears in bit parts as various hecklers and a comic. In addition, coproducer John Legend contributes an original song. At one point, Gregory declares, “Nobody makes it out alive when they make a real change that has to do with race. Nobody!” As he often has done over the course of his life, Gregory defies convention yet again.
Who: Maria Hassabi
What: High Line Performances
Where: The High Line, West 30th St. & Twelfth Ave.
When: June 28-30, free, 7:00
Why: We’d follow Cyprus-born, New York City–based dancer and choreographer Maria Hassabi just about anywhere to see her unique, intense performances. We’ve seen her crawl across cobblestones on Broad St., slither up and down stairs at MoMA, wrestle with a carpet at PS122, and wind her way through the audience on the floor of the Kitchen. On June 26, 27, and 28 at 7:00, Hassabi will be on the High Line at the Rail Yards at West Thirtieth St., presenting the site-specific Movement #2. The beautiful elevated park is in full bloom now, so it should provide a splendid backdrop for Hassabi’s thirty-minute show, an informal preview of her next full-length piece, Staged, which will have its world premiere at the Kitchen October 4-8 as part of FIAF’s annual Crossing the Line Festival. Movement #2 features Simon Courchel, Hristoula Harakas, Molly Lieber, and Oisín Monaghan in separate parts of the park; viewers must move around in order to see them all, which is of course part of the fun. (Admission is free; no advance RSVP is required.)
Who: Jack Ferver, Carling Talcott-Steenstra, Barton Cowperthwaite, Reid Bartelme
What: ADI/NYC Incubator residency program
Where: The Kitchen, 519 West 19th St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves., 855-263-2623
When: June 30 - July 2, $25
Why: Wait, what! You still haven’t gotten tickets to see the inimitable Jack Ferver’s latest show, I Want You to Want Me? Are you out of your mind? We’ve been telling you for years about Ferver, a genuine New York City treasure who is a storytelling marvel, mixing humor and melodrama, pathos and bathos, fiction and nonfiction, fantasy and reality in works that examine the state of our fame-obsessed world through a wacky and wild pop-culture sense and sensibility. Part of the American Dance Institute’s NYC Incubator program, I Want You to Want Me runs June 30 through July 2 at the Kitchen and features, alongside writer, choreographer, and star Ferver, Carling Talcott-Steenstra as Ann Erica Rose, Barton Cowperthwaite as Bartholomew, and longtime Ferver collaborator and costume designer Reid Bartelme as Reid in what is being billed as a “horror play/goth ballet.” Ferver, whose previous works include Chambre, Rumble Ghost, and All of a Sudden, explains, “I thought I would try to make something for everyone. You know, like ballet or a good subscription audience kind of play. I consider myself a populist, but some people really hate my work. They even hate me they hate my work so much. So I thought: ‘Well, why don’t I make a really pretty ballet or a play about a straight couple and their issues?’ So that’s what I’m going to do. Oh, I also just wanted to say that not everyone is going to make it. I don’t mean make it to the show. I mean make it out of the show alive.” The Incubator program continues in September with Zvi Dance and Steven Reker / Open House and in October with Morgan Thorson and Kate Weare Company.
EAST OF EDEN (Elia Kazan, 1955)
Sixth Ave. between 40th & 42nd Sts.
Monday, June 27, free, sunset
Festival continues Mondays through August 22
“I guess there’s just a certain amount of good and bad you get from your parents and I just got the bad,” Cal (James Dean) says in Elia Kazan’s cinematic adaptation of part of John Steinbeck’s 1952 novel, East of Eden, a modern retelling of the biblical Cain and Abel story. In his first starring role, Dean received a posthumous Oscar nomination for his moody, angst-ridden performance as Cal Trask, a troubled young man who discovers that the mother (Best Supporting Actress winner Jo Van Fleet) he thought was dead is actually alive and well and running a successful house of prostitution nearby. Cal tries to win his father’s (Raymond Massey as Adam Trask) love and acceptance any way he can, including helping him develop his grand plan to transport lettuce from their farm via refrigerated railway cars, but his father seems to always favor his other son, Aron (Richard Davalos). Aron, meanwhile, is in love with Abra (Julie Harris), a sweet young woman who takes a serious interest in Cal and desperately wants him to succeed. But the well-meaning though misunderstood Cal does things his own way, which gets him in trouble with his father and brother, the mother who wants nothing to do with him, the sheriff (Burl Ives), and just about everyone else he comes in contact with. Set in Monterey and Salinas, East of Eden begins with a grand overture by Leonard Rosenman, announcing the film is going to be a major undertaking, and it lives up to its billing. Dean is masterful as Cal, peppering Paul Osborn’s script with powerful improvisational moments as he expresses his frustration with his family and life in general. His inner turmoil threatens to explode in both word and gesture as he just seeks to be loved. Dean would follow up East of Eden with seminal roles in Rebel Without a Cause and Giant before his death in a car crash in 1955 at the age of twenty-four, leaving behind a remarkable legacy that has influenced generations of actors ever since. East of Eden is screening June 27 at the Bryant Park Summer Film Festival, which continues Monday nights through August 22 with such other classic flicks as Preston Sturges’s The Palm Beach Story, Richard Donner’s The Omen, and Clint Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter.
Through June 26, free, 8:00
William Shakespeare, protofeminist? Well, not exactly. But in the hands of Tony-nominated director Phyllida Lloyd, Bard fans are offered a new way to look at Shakespeare’s troubling play about women’s submission at the hands of devious men. Lloyd, who previously helmed all-woman versions of Julius Caesar and Henry IV at St. Ann’s (as well as Mamma Mia! on Broadway), now takes the same route with The Taming of the Shrew, continuing at the Public’s Delacorte Theater in Central Park through June 26. Mark Thompson’s set and costumes create a kind of traveling circus atmosphere as a Donald Trump sound-alike introduces beauty-pageant contestants, instantly demeaning women in multiple ways. The women, who come in all the shapes and sizes that the presumptive Republican nominee for president would clearly not approve of, sing and dance, wearing giant smiles on their faces. But Katherina (Cush Jumbo), whose sister is the beautiful, ditzy blonde Bianca (Gayle Rankin), wants no part of this sideshow, demanding to make her own decisions and refusing to kowtow to any man.
Her words are so harsh and brutal that the men in Padua treat her as a kind of laughingstock, wanting nothing to do with her. But when her wealthy father, Baptista (LaTanya Richardson Jackson), declares that until Katherina, his eldest daughter, is wed, his younger daughter, Bianca, an object of sexual desire among all the men, is off limits. So several of Bianca’s suitors, including Gremio (Judy Gold), Lucentio (Rosa Gilmore), and Hortensio (Donna Lynne Champlin), get involved in an elaborate scheme of lies, deception, and mistaken identity to convince Petruchio (Janet McTeer) to wed and bed the untamable Katherina so Bianca becomes fair game. But Kate is not about to fall for their tricks, until she has little choice, resulting in some very difficult scenes as Petruchio essentially starves and tortures Kate to force her to become his obedient sex slave. But Lloyd has a surprise in store that provides a conclusion that might not sit well with either Shakespeare or Trump.
The cast, which also features Adrienne C. Moore as Tranio, Teresa Avia Lim as Biondello, Stacey Sergeant as Grumio, Candy Buckley as Vincentio, Leenya Rideout as a wealthy widow, and Morgan Everitt, Anne L. Nathan, Pearl Rhein, Jackie Sanders, and Natalie Woolams-Torres, has an absolute ball, seemingly enjoying every second of the show. Jumbo (Josephine and I, The River) stomps and shrieks around with fiery glee as Kate, while Tony-winning, Oscar-nominated British actress McTeer (God of Carnage, Tumbleweeds) channels a dirtbag Crocodile Dundee as Petruchio. Gold (The Judy Show — My Life as a Sitcom, 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother) stands tall as Gremio, replacing what she calls a boring speech with a brief stand-up routine that, the night we attended, referenced a raccoon that was sneaking around backstage. And Moore (Black Cindy on Orange Is the New Black) is delightful as Tranio, firmly entrenched right in the middle of all the shenanigans. Lloyd infuses the festivities — which actually do nearly fall apart during the wedding scenes and when Petruchio is “taming” Kate — with a feminist energy that nearly explodes to songs by Pat Benatar and Joan Jett. Of course, this production of an outdated, sexist play — which inspired the Cole Porter musical Kiss Me, Kate — comes along at an opportune moment in American history, as Hillary Clinton has a legitimate chance to become the first woman U.S. president, violence and discrimination against the LGBTQ community remain prevalent, and even discussions over bathroom usage have resulted in fear and loathing. In the program, Public Theater artistic director Oskar Eustis notes that Shrew “is the only major Shakespeare play which I have never produced or directed. . . . The reason is simple: I have never been able to get behind the central action of the play, which is, well, taming a woman. . . . But then I listened to Phyllida Lloyd.” We are all very glad that he did.