Lincoln Center Theater at the Mitzi E. Newhouse
150 West 65th St. between Broadway & Amsterdam Ave.
Tuesday - Saturday through June 16, $85
Over the last few years, Richard Nelson has been detailing the exploits of the Rhinebeck-based Apple family in such decidedly American, politically tinged works as That Hopey Changey Thing, Sweet and Sad, and Sorry. Nelson examines a very different kind of extended American family in the intelligent and engaging Nikolai and the Others, running at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater through June 16. It’s the spring of 1948, and a group of Russian immigrants has gathered at the Westport farmhouse of Vera and Igor Stravinsky (Blair Brown and John Glover) to honor elderly set designer Sergey Sudeikin (Alvin Epstein). Among the guests are choreographer George Balanchine (Michael Cerveris), actor Vladimir Sokoloff (John Procaccino) and his wife, Lisa (Betsy Aiden), Balanchine confidant and Stravinsky friend and translator Lucia Davidova (Haviland Morris), piano teacher Aleksi Karpov (Anthony Cochrane) and his fiancée, Natasha Nabokov (Kathryn Erbe), and composer Nikolai “Nicky” Nabokov (Stephen Kunken), Natasha’s first husband and a man who helps out his fellow Russian émigrés through secret connections. The men and women discuss life and love, art and politics while eating and drinking delicacies from the old country, proud of their heritage as well as having become American citizens. The evening’s centerpiece is to be the presentation of a pas de deux from Balanchine and Stravinsky’s upcoming ballet, Orpheus, performed by Balanchine’s wife, Maria Tallchief (Natalia Alonso), and Nicholas Magallanes (Michael Rosen), but the arrival of conductor Serge Koussevitsky (Dale Place) with U.S diplomat Charles Bohlen (Gareth Saxe) throws everything out of balance as suspicion and fear hover in the country air.
Though featuring real characters and referencing many actual events, Nikolai and the Others is a fascinating creation of Nelson’s, an imaginary weekend that delves into the very nature of the creative process in a quickly changing world. (For example, Sudeikin died in 1946, two years before the play takes place.) But Nelson does an excellent job capturing the powerful emotions these Russian immigrants are experiencing as they attempt to continue their careers in America at the start of the Cold War, in search of personal and professional freedom that comes at a price. Nelson and director David Cromer (Tribes, When the Rain Stops Falling) have the characters speak unaccented English when they are conversing in their native Russian tongue, then in thickly accented English when they are talking in English itself, a conceit that is confusing at first but ultimately works very well. Glover, Brown, and Cerveris lead a strong cast that feels like they have formed a warm family of their own while inviting in the audience, which wraps around Marsha Ginsberg’s intimate set. The show takes on added meaning since it is in the midst of its world premiere at Lincoln Center, where Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein (who is mentioned often but is never seen) ultimately moved the New York City Ballet after founding the troupe in 1948 and including Orpheus in its inaugural season.
THE WARRIORS (Walter Hill, 1979)
Landmark Sunshine Cinema
143 East Houston St. between First & Second Aves.
Friday, May 24, Saturday, May 25, and Sunday, May 26, $10, 12 midnight
At a huge gang meeting in the Bronx (actually shot in Riverside Park), the Warriors are wrongly accused of having killed Cyrus (Roger Hill), an outspoken leader trying to band all the warring factions together to form one huge force that can take over the New York City borough by borough. The Warriors then must make it back to their home turf, Coney Island, with every gang in New York lying in wait for them to pass through their territory. This iconic New York City gang movie is based on Sol Yurick’s novel, which in turn is loosely based on Xenophon’s Anabasis, which told of the ancient Greeks’ retreat from Persia. Michael Beck stars as Swan, who becomes the de-facto leader of the Warriors after Cleon (Dorsey Wright) gets taken down early. Battling Swan for control is Ajax (Sex and the City’s James Remar) and tough-talking Mercy (Too Close for Comfort’s Deborah Van Valkenburgh). Serving as a Greek chorus is Lynne (Law & Order) Thigpen as a radio DJ, and, yes, that young woman out too late in Central Park is eventual Oscar winner Mercedes Ruehl. Among the cartoony gangs of New York who try to stop the Warriors are the roller-skating Punks, the pathetic Orphans, the militaristic Gramercy Riffs, the all-girl Lizzies, the ragtag Rogues, and the inimitable Baseball Furies. Another main character is the New York City subway system itself. There’s nothing quite like The Warriors; be sure to come out and play at these Memorial Day weekend midnight screenings.
New Museum of Contemporary Art
235 Bowery at Prince St.
Friday - Sunday through May 26, $12-$16
Where were you in 1993? Thirty years ago, we were toiling for the Evil Empire, hoping that the Rangers would win their first Stanley Cup in more than half a century, seeing Springsteen on tour without the E Street Band, and looking for a new apartment after having just gotten married. But in general, 1993 found itself in the midst of a rather nondescript decade highlighted by the tempestuous presidency of William Jefferson Clinton and perhaps best exemplified by the Y2K nonproblem. The New Museum turns its attention on that one specific year in “NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star.” Taking its name from the 1994 album by legendary New York underground giants Sonic Youth (the album was recorded in 1993), the show gathers together works created around 1993 by a rather distinguished group of artists, including Matthew Barney, Larry Clark, Martin Kippenberger, John Currin, Nan Goldin, David Hammons, Todd Haynes, Derek Jarman, Mike Kelley, Annie Leibovitz, Elizabeth Peyton, Cindy Sherman, Wolfgang Tillmans, Gillian Wearing, and Hannah Wilke. There are many stand-out pieces, from Robert Gober’s “Prison Window,” wonderfully placed near an “Exit” sign, Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s “Untitled (Couple),” a string of lightbulbs dangling from the ceiling, and Lorna Simpson’s “7 Mouths,” consisting of close-ups of seven mouths on photo-linen panels, to Devon Dikeou’s lobby directory boards, Charles Ray’s “Family Romance,” depicting a naked fiberglass family of four, all the same height, and Paul McCarthy’s “Cultural Gothic,” in which a man seems proud that his son is doing a goat. And visitors get to walk on Rudolf Stingel’s carpet on the fourth floor and in the elevators.
However, the show is not quite the time capsule curators Massimiliano Gioni and Gary Carrion-Murayari sought; not all of the work is actually from 1993 (Sarah Lucas’s simple but elegant 1991 “The Old Couple,” Jack Pierson’s 1991 four-letter, multicolored “STAY,” Kiki Smith’s 1992 life-size bronze “Virgin Mary,” Andres Serrano’s 1992 prints from the Morgue series), while others deal with events that occurred prior to 1993 (Lutz Bacher’s “My Penis,” in which William Kennedy Smith repeats that phrase over and over in a six-and-a-half-minute video loop; Glenn Ligon’s “Red Portfolio” references a 1989 direct-mail letter from Pat Robertson). Some of the older works, especially those not by New Yorkers, might have first been shown in New York in 1993, including at the Whitney Biennial, but it doesn’t feel all of a piece, the specific groupings making more sense to art insiders than to the general public. Still, “NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star” is a fun sampling of the art of the early ’90s, even if it doesn’t make any grand social, cultural, or political statements.
Before becoming a rock-and-roll star, leading the Psychedelic Furs to such 1980s hits as “Pretty in Pink,” “Love My Way,” “Forever Now,” and so many more, followed by his ’90s stint with Love Spit Love, Richard Butler studied painting at the Epsom School of Art and Design in England. As it turns out, the elegant English singer handles both the microphone and the paintbrush rather adeptly, as displayed at last fall’s excellent Psychedelic Furs show at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester and his current exhibition at Chelsea’s Freight + Volume, “ahatfulofrain.” Once again featuring his daughter in many of the works — “Some ninety percent of the paintings I make are based upon images of my daughter, usually distorted in one way or another,” he explains in a press-release interview. “She has become a cipher for me, an every man/woman.” — the Beacon-based Butler creates dark portraits with abstract geometric elements covering parts of his subjects’ faces or hovering in midair. Featuring such intriguing titles as “confessionalsinner,” “devilsbreath,” “whenisaidiloveyouilied,” and “yourheroestoowillbeforgotten,” the canvases combine melancholy with a surreal, dreamlike state bathed in a kind of eerie silence. “Inside you the time moves and she don’t fade / The ghost in you she don’t fade,” Butler sang on the Furs’ 1984 album, Mirror Moves, a chorus that can also be applied to this fine show.
Brooklyn Academy of Music
30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Pl. & St. Felix St.
May 24-27, free - $50
Last week, the incomparable Baba Chuck Davis, the founder and artistic director of BAM’s annual DanceAfrica festival, was one of the grand marshals of the seventh New York Dance Parade, the theme of which was “Unity Through Dance.” That same theme can apply to Davis and DanceAfrica, which this year brings three international companies to the Howard Gilman Opera House stage. Zimbabwe’s Umkhathi Theatre Works will perform the tribal dance Isitshikitsha, the hunting-and-gathering dance Chinyambera, the Shangani tribal dance Muchongoyo, and the social gathering Setapa, joined by the BAM/Restoration DanceAfrica Ensemble. Atlanta’s Giwayen Mata’s program will include Perseverance: In My House, set to DJ Fresca’s “Amaphoyisa,” and the Lamban Dansa. Harambee Dance Company, which hails from the Bronx, will present the historical and spiritual journey Reflections, the partying Midnight in the City, and the musical piece “You Goin’ Get This Work.” As a special treat, Washington, DC’s Sweet Honey in the Rock will sing “Sabumoya,” “I Remember I Believe,” “Wholly Wholly,” and “Let There Be Peace.” As always, Davis will provide his welcoming address (“Ago!” “Amée!!”), introduce the Council of Elders, and honor those who are no longer with us. Meanwhile, BAMcinématek’s FilmAfrica will screen such movies as Taghreed Elsanhouri’s Our Beloved Sudan, Clemente Bococchi’s Black Africa White Marble, Charlie Vundla’s How to Steal 2 Million, and Rémi Bezançon and Jean-Christophe Lie’s animated Zarafa. BAMcafé Live continues the African celebration with a pair of free concerts: Abdou Mboup and Waakaw on May 24 and a Late Night Dance Party with Ralph McDaniels and Video Music Box on May 25. And the always fun DanceAfrica Bazaar will set up shop along Lafayette Ave. and Ashland Pl. Saturday through Monday, a global marketplace with great food, clothing, fashion, arts & crafts, and much more.
THE MASTER (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012)
Museum of the Moving Image
35th Ave. at 36th St., Astoria
Friday, May 24, 7:00, and Saturday, May 25, 2:00, free with museum admission
One of America’s most daring and adventurous filmmakers, California native Paul Thomas Anderson, who has dazzled, amazed, challenged, and confused audiences with such previous gems as Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love, and There Will Be Blood, has done it again with his latest, The Master. The film is built around the fascinating relationship between Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), a WWII vet struggling to fit into the real world after seeing so much violence and death overseas, and the Master (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the leader of a cultlike organization known as the Cause that believes in past-life regression and invasive questioning known as Processing to help people deal with personal trauma. The Master essentially adopts Quell, intrigued by his distorted outlook on life, making him a member of the family, which also includes his wife, Peggy (Amy Adams), his son, Val (Jesse Plemons), and his daughter, Elizabeth (Ambyr Childers). Inspired by the real-life tale of L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology — and incorporating war stories he was told by Jason Robards on the set of Magnolia, elements from the life of John Steinbeck, and discarded scenes from the script for There Will Be Blood — Anderson crafts a, dare we say, masterful cinematic experience built around a pair of extraordinary performances. Phoenix absolutely inhabits the role of Quell, staggering about with an awkward gait, with impossibly deep lines on his face and eyes that seem to be able to look through lead. Hoffman is his equal as the much cooler and calmer spiritual leader, until he is faced with sudden turmoil. The scenes in which the two men sit across from each other, going through a Processing session, are mesmerizing, the most powerful moments to be found onscreen last year. (Both Phoenix and Hoffman received Oscar nods, along with Adams.) But despite the title, the focus remains on Quell, a lost soul searching for somewhere to belong in a changing postwar America. Anderson’s first film in four years, The Master is a bold, audacious work that is as unsettling as it is exhilarating. The Master is screening May 24 at 7:00 and May 25 at 2:00 as part of the Museum of the Moving Image series “See It Big!,” which continues into June with such other great films as Akira Kurosawa’s Ran, Roberto Rossellini’s Journey to Italy, and Nicholas Ray’s Bigger Than Life.