Lincoln Center Theater at the Mitzi E. Newhouse
150 West 65th St. between Broadway & Amsterdam Ave.
Tuesday - Sunday through April 29, $92
Joshua Harmon makes it three-for-three with his third professionally produced play, the timely and provocative Admissions, continuing at the Mitzi E. Newhouse at Lincoln Center through April 29. Harmon boldly skewers white privilege, a sizzling-hot topic in America today, in a work written by a white man, directed by a white man, performed by an all-white cast, and seen by a mostly white audience. Although criticized by some, it’s perversely critical that Harmon has included only white characters, because this kind of liberal racism and privilege is a specifically white problem that needs to be addressed by whites. Sherri Rosen-Mason (Jessica Hecht) and Bill Mason (Andrew Garman) both work at Hillcrest, a second-tier boarding school in New Hampshire where Sherri is head of admissions and Bill is headmaster. As the play opens, dyed-in-the-wool New Englander Roberta (Ann McDonough), who works in development, brings Sherri a draft of the admissions catalog, which infuriates Sherri when she sees very few people of color in the brochure. Her agenda is crystal clear: “When I first got to Hillcrest, the student body was ninety-four percent white, six percent students of color,” Sherri explains. “Now, I have worked like a dog the last fifteen years so that our school looks a little bit more like the country in which it is situated, and today, we’re eighteen percent students of color. Which is still an embarrassingly low number, but it’s three hundred percent better than where we were just fifteen years ago.” Roberta argues that she did her best and that she does not see color, that Sherri is overly concerned about race, leading to an uncomfortable discussion about just how black biracial student Perry Peters is. While Roberta says he is black, Sherri is worried that he doesn’t “read black” in the photo in the catalog. “He looks whiter than my son in this picture,” Sherri says, referring to Charlie (Ben Edelman), who, like Perry, is applying to colleges. But when Perry, whose mother, Ginnie (Sally Murphy), is good friends with Sherri, gets into Yale and Charlie gets wait-listed, Sherri starts singing a different tune, determined to do whatever she can to get her son back on the track of privilege and merit.
Admissions is anchored by a long, show-stopping monologue by Charlie, marvelously delivered by Edelman, in which the angry student rails against the current politically correct climate that he believes favors women and people of color over white males. The speech infuriates Bill, who calls his son a “spoiled little overprivileged brat.” Later, when Charlie decides to take responsibility and do what he thinks is the right thing, Sherri admonishes him: “We’re not talking about diversity, we’re talking about you, Charlie, you.” And therein lies the NIMBY dilemma as Harmon harpoons liberal ideas of diversity, racial equality, quotas, and what used to be called affirmative action: It’s all well and good until it (maybe) affects their child. Sherri even goes at it with Ginnie, believing that Perry got into Yale primarily because he checked the “black” box on his application. But Ginnie fights right back, claiming that Bill has a better job than her husband, Don, because Bill is white and Don is black. Again, it’s evident that Harmon has included only the white people in his story, that Perry, Don, and any other black men or women exist offstage, as opposed to Dominique Morisseau’s hard-hitting Pipeline, which ran at the Newhouse last summer and was also set at a school dealing with race and class issues. White privilege is still rampant throughout the nation, no matter how many white people, liberal or conservative, think it’s not and find the whole idea offensive. Yet it is not the job of black Americans to “wake up” white Americans to their own racism; the oppressed do not need to appear before a white audience to explain themselves to their oppressors, and thus they are absent from Harmon’s play. White people need to clean up their own side, however messy and painful the process may be.
Riccardo Hernandez’s open set serves as both the Masons’ kitchen and living room and Sherri’s office, equating the private and the professional. Director Daniel Aukin (4000 Miles, Bad Jews) navigates the tense, explosive dialogue seamlessly; theatergoers should pay close attention to the other characters when one is doing the talking, especially during the longer speeches. Tony nominee Hecht’s (The Assembled Parties, A View from the Bridge) hesitant style works well for Sherri, countering Garman’s (The Christians, Salomé) firmer, more direct approach. But it’s Edelman (Significant Other, The Idiot Box) who steals the show as Charlie, a confused kid trapped in the middle of an incendiary issue, a smart young man who has to find respite by running into the woods and screaming his head off. Harmon’s debut, 2012’s Bad Jews, was a dark comedy about three siblings fighting over a family heirloom; it began at the Roundabout’s subterranean Black Box before moving to the larger Laura Pels upstairs. His follow-up, 2015’s Significant Other, dealt with a gay twentysomething man who watches his three close girlfriends find love while he remains single; it started at the Laura Pels and then transferred to the Booth on Broadway. Admissions is about a lot more than just getting into college — and it certainly passes the test to qualify for a bigger house as well.
22-25 Jackson Ave. at 46th Ave.
Saturday, March 24, each session $10, both $15, 12 noon - 6:00, 6:00 - 9:00
The second annual Come Together: Music Festival and Label Market takes place March 24 at MoMA PS1, a joint venture between the museum and the late, lamented Other Music record shop. More than seventy-five labels will be in Long Island City, selling and sharing awesome music. There will be live performances by Laetitia Tamko’s Vagabon, Hailu Mergia, and Dead Moon, which will also be the subject of an archival exhibition; the New York premiere of The Potential of Noise (Reto Caduff & Stephan Plank, 2017), about sound designer and producer Conny Plank; “The Creative Independent,” a workshop with Brandon Stosuy, Katie Alice Greer, and Jenn Pelly; a sound design experimental workshop with Marco Gomez (False Witness); DJ sets by Yo La Tengo, phoneg1rl b2b NK Badtz Maru, Sal P, and Duane Harriott; a multisensory listening experience with Suzi Analogue’s Never Normal Soundsystem and wearable audio technology company SUBPAC; the multimedia lecture “A Cosmic and Earthly History of Recorded Music According to Mississippi Records” with Eric Isaacson; clips of live music performed at Other Music between 1995 and 2016; loops of prank calls by Longmont Potion Castle in the elevator; an interactive reading and listening room in honor of Mexican Summer’s tenth anniversary; the performative, interactive thrift-store installation “Jimmy’s Thrift of New Davonhaime” by Azikiwe Mohammed; and a zine-making workshop with Suffragette City. Among the other participating labels are 4AD, Cantaloupe Music, Captured Tracks, Daptone, Glassnote, Goner, Luaka Bop, Matador, New Amsterdam, New World, Ninja Tune, Nonesuch, Northern Spy, Rough Trade, Sacred Bones, Sub Pop, Third Man, and XL Recordings. Tickets to the fair are $10 for the 12 noon to 6:00 session and $10 for the 6:00 to 9:00 extended programming; you can get into both for $15.
The Pershing Square Signature Center
The Irene Diamond Stage
480 West 42nd St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves.
Tuesday-Sunday through March 25, $65-$85
“We should talk,” Ann (Katie Finneran) says to Peter (Robert Sean Leonard) at the beginning of Edward Albee’s At Home at the Zoo, a two-act play running at the Signature through March 25. “Do you mind if we talk?” Jerry (Paul Sparks) asks Peter in the second act. Every word matters in Albee’s minimalist play about language, communication, and loneliness. The second half of the work, The Zoo Story, began as a one-act play first performed in West Berlin in 1959. Nearly fifty years later, in 2004, Albee added a prequel, Homelife, in order to flesh out the character of Peter. Initially known as Peter and Jerry, the retitled Edward Albee’s At Home at the Zoo opens with Peter sitting in a chair with a matching ottoman, reading a book under a lamp. Andrew Lieberman’s set is otherwise bare, except for Cy Twombly–like pencil scribbles on the white walls and floor that could be editors’ marks (Peter works for a text-book publisher) while evoking a certain randomness. The forty-five-year-old Peter and the thirty-eight-year-old Ann live on the Upper East Side and have settled into a cozy, rather ordinary life. While that pleases Peter, Ann appears to want more. She leads their discourse from daydreams of public nakedness to contemplations of morality and mortality; before we know it, the two are deep in polite conversation about the mundane violence visited upon upper-middle-class sex organs: from prophylactic breast removal to infant circumcision. “Once you hear of an idea you never know where it will lodge itself, when it will move from something learned to something . . . considerable, something you might think about, which is not far from being thought about, if you wanted to, or needed to,” Ann says. “We all die of something,” Peter responds. Ann: “Sooner or later.” Peter: “Yes, but . . .” Ann: “Yes, but! Oh, you do love pedantry so . . . dying of not doing something can be carelessness!” Much of their conversation involves the semantic use of words; the couple exists together — and indeed is still happy — more through language than action. In the world they’ve created, being comfortable is not really a problem; in fact, Peter is so comfortable that he spends virtually the entire act seated in his chair. “I love you dearly,” Ann says. “But where’s the . . . the rage, the . . . animal? We’re animals! Why don’t we behave like that . . . like beasts?! Is it that we love each other too safely, maybe? That we’re secure? That we’re too . . . civilized? Don’t we ever hate one another?” That will have to wait until after intermission.
The second act, The Zoo Story, opens with Peter sitting on a park bench, reading. A stranger who later identifies himself as Jerry approaches him and says, “I’ve been to the zoo,” an ingenious transition from the first act, in which Ann was talking about animals and beasts. Speaking expressively in disjointed thoughts, Jerry is everything Peter is not; aggressive, unashamed, unfiltered, and, perhaps most important, potentially dangerous. “I don’t talk to many people,” Jerry tells Peter. “But every once in a while I like to talk to somebody, really talk, like to get to know somebody, know all about him.” Understandably uncomfortable, Peter responds, “And am I the guinea pig for today?” After a long, convoluted story about his landlady and her dog, Jerry does more than talk as he invades Peter’s space, leading to a shocking conclusion. Edward Albee’s At Home at the Zoo features fine performances from Tony winner Leonard (The Invention of Love, House) as the gentle, mild-mannered Peter and two-time Tony winner Finneran (Noises Off; Promises, Promises) as the curious and concerned Ann, but Albee saves the fireworks for Jerry, a bundle of nervous energy superbly embodied by Emmy nominee Sparks (House of Cards, Boardwalk Empire); he’s like a caged animal waiting to burst free, exacerbating a situation where anything can happen at any moment. (Perhaps the marks on the walls were made by human animals trying to escape their theatrical fate.) Drama Desk Award winner Lila Neugebauer (The Wolves, Everybody), who directed Albee’s 1959 one-act The Sandbox at the Signature in 2016, keeps the tension building in both sections of the play, which come together seamlessly. Of course, Albee, who was the Residency One Playwright at the Signature in 1993-94, is making a direct connection between theater and zoos, two places where humans pay money to watch others perform for them. Thus, Albee feels right at home at the Signature (as well as at the zoo; the author’s name in the title could be read as a possessive or as the subject of the sentence). And just like at the zoo, nobody likes to see sleeping animals; children and adults want to see some action, which is just what Albee gives them in the end.
Tickets are now on sale for four special Tribeca Film Festival events taking place at the Beacon Theatre, a quartet of world premieres, three of which will be followed by discussions with some pretty serious characters.
Wednesday, April 18
Gala: Love, Gilda (Lisa D’Apolito, 2018), world premiere screening of documentary about Gilda Radner, $46-$156, 7:00
Thursday, April 19
Retrospective Special Screenings: Scarface (Brian De Palma, 1983), world premiere of thirty-fifth anniversary restoration of 170-minute version, followed by a discussion with stars Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer and director Brian De Palma, $71-$356, 7:00
Thursday, April 26
Retrospective Special Screenings: Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg, 1993), twenty-fifth anniversary screening, followed by a discussion with stars Liam Neeson, Sir Ben Kingsley, and Embeth Davidtz and director Steven Spielberg, moderated by Janet Maslin, $71-$356, 6:30
Friday, April 27
Special Screenings: Unbanned: The Legend of AJ1 (Dexton Deboree, 2018), world premiere screening of documentary about the Air Jordan sneaker, followed by live performances by Kid Ink, Gizzle, and others, $61-$206, 8:00
333 East 47th St. at First Ave.
Monday, March 26, $15, 7:30
Japan Society’s 110th anniversary season continues March 26 with the thirteenth installment of its popular Play Reading Series, which features staged readings of works by up-and-coming Japanese playwrights translated into English. The latest is Hideto Iwai’s Manhood, which follows four men facing the natural aging process. The play is directed by Sarah Hughes (Wood Calls Out to Wood, Afterward) with a gender-swapped cast of Kate Benson, Ugo Anyanwu, Zoë Geltman, Daniel K. Isaac, Kristine Haruna Lee, and Mia Katigbak. Playwright, actor, director, and Kishida Kunio Award winner Iwai (A Certain Woman, The Husband and Wife), a former hikikomori who spent four years as a recluse because of violence he suffered at the hands of his father and brother, and Hughes, who directs and produces theater and new media, will participate in a Q&A following the reading. Previous works in the Japan Society series include Ai Nagai’s Women in a Holy Mess, directed by Cynthia Croot, Suguru Yamamoto’s Girl X, directed by Charlotte Brathwaite, and Seiji Nozoe’s Dancing with the Bird, directed by James Yaegashi.
Asia Society Museum
725 Park Ave. at 70th St.
Tuesday - Sunday through March 25, $12 (free Fridays from 6:00 to 9:00)
Asia Society’s “In Focus” series, which takes in-depth looks at individual works of art, is currently exploring a magnificent “Chinese New Year Pantheon” painting from the late Qing dynasty. The exhibition, “An Assembly of Gods,” identifies eighty-two of the deities in the seven-foot-high work on paper, less than half the total, from the Buddhist, Daoist, Confucian, and other religions. The show, which continues through March 25, delves into the hierarchical structure of the deities, a bureaucratic arrangement placing such figures as Shakyamuni Buddha, the Jade Emperor, and Confucius at the top center; examines how the work, which is traditionally displayed on New Year’s Day, records the passage of time, represented by the Four Daoist Meritorious Officers, who guard the days, months, seasons, and years; and analyzes the fine techniques used by the anonymous artist while wondering why it was never completed. Among other deities in the painting, which occupies its own room at Asia Society, are the Peacock King, the Buddha of Exalted Virtue, the Black Tortoise, the Five Sacred Peaks, the Stellar God of Immortality, the Five Commissioners of Pestilence, the Gods of the Five Paths to Wealth, the Horse King, and the Earth Goddess. Also on view now at Asia Society is “Unknown Tibet: The Tucci Expeditions and Buddhist Painting” and “Masterpieces from the Asia Society Museum Collection.”
Minetta Lane Theatre
18 Minetta Lane between Sixth Ave. and Macdougal St.
Tuesday - Saturday through May 13, $47-$67
Last fall, Billy Crudup starred in the one-man show Harry Clarke at the Vineyard Theatre. The play is now back, opening last night at the Minetta Lane Theatre, where it continues through May 13, produced by Audible, which recorded and released the Vineyard performance as an audiobook, adding interviews with director Leigh Silverman and playwright David Cale, among other bonus materials. Below is twi-ny’s review from the Vineyard Theatre run.
Tony winner Billy Crudup charms the audience much as the character he plays charms the Schmidt family in David Cale’s riveting one-man show, Harry Clarke. In his first solo performance, Crudup is captivating as Philip Brugglestein, a wayward midwesterner who invented an alter ego, the British-speaking Harry Clarke, as a psychological defense against bullying schoolmates and his mentally and physically abusive father. As an adult, Philip has moved to New York City, where he is floundering. One day, in the mood for an adventure, he follows a random guy in the street; later, he befriends the man, a wealthy financier named Mark Schmidt, but Philip introduces himself as his childhood creation, pretending to be the fun-loving Harry Clarke, a smooth operator from Elstree. (He even claims that he worked for Sade for twenty years.) Harry insinuates himself into Mark’s life, as well as that of Mark’s sister, Stephanie, and mother, Ruth, in a way reminiscent of Tom Ripley in Patricia Highsmith’s books except Harry is no mere con man out for money; he’s seeking connections, searching for his identity, as are most of the characters in the play. “I could be myself if I had an English accent,” he recalls saying as child, later telling his parents, “But it’s my real voice.” Soon Harry finds himself caught up in a situation that he didn’t quite expect.
An actor, composer, and playwright who was born in London and moved to New York when he was twenty, Cale originally wrote Harry Clarke for himself — he has previously written and starred in such solo works as Lillian, Deep in a Dream of You, and The Redthroats and has appeared on The Good Wife and in The Total Bent at the Public — but he eventually opted for Crudup, who has been nominated for four Tonys, winning one (for The Coast of Utopa), and has had major roles in such films as Almost Famous and Jesus’ Son. In his third play at the Vineyard, following Chiori Miyagawa’s America Dreaming and Adam Rapp’s The Metal Children, Crudup commands the virtually bare stage with a tender fury; Alexander Dodge’s set features a lone chair on a deck, a small table where Crudup keeps a glass of water, and a scrim in back for abstract projections that hint at a blue sea and sky, with occasional changes. Two-time Obie winner and Tony nominee Leigh Silverman (Violet, In the Wake), who directed Marin Ireland in the searing one-woman show On the Exhale earlier this year, knows just when to get Crudup on the move. Crudup (Waiting for Godot, No Man’s Land) sits casually before at last getting up and really hitting his stride, doing different voices for every character; the writing is so sharp, and the performance so astute, with a cinematic fervor, that you can easily visualize the places Harry goes, from Sixth Ave. to a gay bar to relaxing on board the Schmidts’ boat, Jewish American Princess. Harry is a big movie fan, preferring noirs and thrillers and listening to records by French film composer Georges Delerue, and Cale’s play becomes like a noir thriller itself; it’s no coincidence that Mark wants to become a movie producer. When Harry and Mark meet for the second time, in a theater, Harry says, “This play’s like a mystery, in that sense, seems more like a movie.” Meanwhile, Philip, of course, is a completely unreliable narrator; all of the events are related through his warped, damaged, unpredictable view, as if he’s created his own movie, but that’s part of what makes the show so tantalizing.