The Newman Theater at the Public Theater
425 Lafayette St. by Astor Pl.
Tuesday - Sunday through December 1, $90-$95
“I don’t know why anybody lives in this country,” Alice Park (Emily Bergl) tells her best friend, Susan Traherne (Rachel Weisz), at the beginning of David Hare’s Plenty, which explores the failed promise of plenty in post-WWII England. The show is being revived at the Public, where it made its U.S. debut in 1982, directed by Hare, and later moved to Broadway, where it earned four Tony nominations, including Best Play. This first major New York City revival is a compelling if not wholly successful production that travels back and forth in time, shuffling between 1943 and 1962 in nonlinear fashion. The story centers on Susan, a strong woman who speaks her mind, even as she starts losing control of it. She goes from being a secret courier in France during the war to a diplomat’s wife to a feminist who refuses to rely on a man to make her happy. “I’d like to change everything but I don’t know how,” she tells Alice. Susan meets a series of men she carefully manipulates, from her caring dullard of a husband, Raymond Brock (a finely mustachioed Corey Stoll), who works for old-fashioned ambassador Leonard Darwin (the always excellent Byron Cummings), and Mick (LeRoy McClain), a potential baby daddy, to Sir Andrew Charleson (Paul Niebanck), head of the Foreign Office, and Codename Lazar (Ken Barnett), an English paratrooper. Susan declares exactly what she’s thinking, not worried about who she might offend or how it will affect her marriage or reputation. But true happiness is just out of reach, a parable of England’s efforts to resurrect itself after the war. “This is hell,” Susan says. “No doubt,” Alice agrees, a far cry from the “peace and plenty” they, and all of England, were expecting.
Hare is undergoing quite a resurgence recently, with major revivals of Skylight on Broadway and The Judas Kiss at BAM (and around the world) and his latest film, Denial, which he wrote for director Mick Jackson, now in theaters, also starring Weisz. In Plenty, Weisz, in the role originated by Kate Nelligan and later played on film by Meryl Streep in 1985 and onstage in London by Cate Blanchett in 1999, is superb as Susan, bringing a wide range of emotions to a character whose fears are getting the best of her even as she fights for her personal freedom. (The film also starred Tracey Ullman as Alice, Charles Dance as Brock, John Gielgud as Darwin, Sting as Mick, Ian McKellen as Charleson, and Sam Neill as Lazar; the original Public Theater production featured Nelligan, Edward Herrmann, Kelsey Grammer, and Dominic Chianese.) Some of the scenes fall flat, feeling out-of-date, particularly when Susan, Brock, and the aptly named Darwin meet with the Burmese ambassador (Pun Bandhu) and his wife (Ann Sanders) and briefly discuss the Suez Canal crisis, which has little impact on contemporary American audiences. Mike Britton’s set features a large horizontal wall that rotates to change scenes, with interstitial jazz by David Van Tieghem as the story goes from Susan and Brock’s house to Darwin’s office to a WWII drop site. Five-time Tony-nominated director David Leveaux (Nine, Anna Christie) never quite reaches a steady narrative flow, as the jumps in time can be confusing. In addition, many of the British references get lost as the disillusioned Susan represents the highs and the lows, the promise and the failure experienced by the country over the course of thirty years. “Oh yes. New Europe. Yes yes,” Darwin says to Brock and Susan early on. “Reconstruction. Massive. Massive work of reconstruction. Jobs. Ideals. Marvellous. Marvellous time to be alive in Europe. No end of it. Roads to be built. People to be educated. Land to be tilled. Lots to get on with. . . . Have another gin.” Or as Brock puts it, “Of course our people are dull, they’re stuffy, they’re death. But what other world do I have?” It’s a world that Susan won’t accept, and it destroys her as well as nearly all those around her.
Who: Lucy DeVito, Carol Kane, Natasha Lyonne, Rosie O’Donnell, Tracee Ellis Ross
What: One-night-only reading of Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron’s Love, Loss, and What I Wore
Where: Kaufmann Concert Hall, 92nd St. Y, 1395 Lexington Ave. at 92nd St., 212-415-5500
When: Sunday, February 5, $15-$48, 8:00
Why: In August 2008, Linda Lavin, Karyn Quackenbush, Leslie Kritzer, Kathy Najimy, and Sara Chase starred in a benefit performance of Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron’s new play, Love, Loss, and What I Wore, a series of monologues based on the 1995 book by Ilene Beckerman that explores the female condition in contemporary America through discussions about clothing and accessories. Over the years, in other benefits, off-Broadway runs, and national tours, the show has become a rite of passage for actresses and comedians; cast members have included Marlo Thomas, Tyne Daly, Blythe Danner, Samantha Bee, Veanne Cox, Sally Struthers, Rhea Perlman, America Ferrera, Brooke Shields, Debi Mazar, Jane Lynch, Christine Lahti, Kristin Chenoweth, Joy Behar, Parker Posey, Marian Seldes, Melissa Joan Hart, Fran Drescher, Florence Henderson, and Kristen Wiig, among many others. Now the 92nd St. Y, in conjunction with original producer Daryl Roth, is presenting a one-night-only reading of the play, featuring Lucy DeVito, Carol Kane, Natasha Lyonne, Rosie O’Donnell, and Tracee Ellis Ross and directed by Karen Carpenter, who helmed the original New York and Los Angeles productions; O’Donnell and Lyonne were in the original cast at the Westside Theatre in 2009, followed shortly by DeVito, Ross, and Kane. The special event isn’t until February, but tickets are already going fast, especially at such reasonable prices.
MoMA, Museum of Modern Art, Marron Atrium
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Thursday, October 27, through Monday, October 31, free with museum admission, 12:30 & 3:00
In the fall of 2012, French conceptual choreographer Jérôme Bel presented The Show Must Go On as part of the three-week MoMA series “Some sweet day.” The piece was performed by professional dancers, teachers, and choreographers. Bel is now returning to MoMA for “Artist’s Choice: Jérôme Bel / MoMA Dance Company,” a new, site-specific work that will feature an unusual troupe composed of MoMA staff members, who had to audition in order to be chosen. Bel is a main focus of this year’s Crossing the Line festival, FIAF’s annual multidisciplinary lineup of dance, art, theater, film, and discussion. Bel restaged The Show Must Go On last week at the Joyce, and he is bringing back 1995’s eponymously titled Jérôme Bel for its New York premiere October 27-29 at the Kitchen. At MoMA every afternoon at 12:30 and 3:00 from October 27 to 31, staffers will dance in the Marron Atrium, moving around and among the crowd, many of which are, of course, rather dance savvy. (Maria Hassabi just won a Bessie Award for PLASTIC, her 2016 dance that also took place in the atrium and other locations around the museum.) Others won’t know quite what’s going on, which is all part of the fun.
651 Fulton St.
October 15-30, $35-$130
Robert Wilson and Mikhail Baryshnikov, who teamed with Willem Dafoe in 2014 at BAM for The Old Woman, have returned to Brooklyn for another avant-Expressionist multimedia marvel, Letter to a Man. Continuing at the Harvey through October 30, the mostly one-man show is based on the diaries of Russian ballet dancer and choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky, who electrified the dance world before his schizophrenia had him in and out of mental institutions from 1919, when he was twenty-nine, until his death in 1950 at the age of sixty-one. Conceived, directed, and designed by Wilson, who has previously dazzled BAM audiences with such consciousness-expanding works as The Blue Rider, Einstein on the Beach, and Woyczeck, Letter to a Man is built around snippets from the diary Nijinsky kept in early 1919, shortly before being hospitalized for the first time. Performed by Baryshnikov, dressed in a sharp tuxedo and white-painted face, and various disembodied voices as if they’re echoing in Nijinsky’s head, the text, adapted by Christian Dumais-Lvowski and filled with references to God, sex, war, and death, features such devastating lines as “I am standing in front of a precipice into which I may fall. I am afraid to fall,” “I will eat everyone I can get hold of. I will stop at nothing,” and “I went in the direction of the abyss.” Baryshnikov moves exquisitely across the stage, with small dance flourishes that are breathtaking, particularly because no footage of Nijinsky performing exists. A. J. Weissbard boldly lights Wilson’s surreal set, with vaudeville-style flashing stage lights in the front, mesmerizing shades of white and blue, and dark shadows as Baryshnikov stands in front of a large window that could be in an asylum or a church. Wilson includes such elements as a burning cross, a fiery red circle that references Nijinsky’s paranoid drawings of eyes in the diaries, and branches that evoke Nijinsky’s only extant choreographic work, Afternoon of a Faun.
The show gets its title from Nijinsky’s fourth notebook, which consists of letters he wrote but never sent; in this case, the “man” in question is Ballets Russes founder and artistic director Sergei Diaghilev, who is never specifically named in the diaries but had a severe falling out with his star dancer and lover after Nijinsky married Romola de Pulszky in September 1913. Although Wilson is treading on familiar territory from a technical standpoint, Letter to a Man is still a mind-blowing tribute to both Nijinsky and Baryshnikov, who along with Rudolf Nureyev redefined ballet in the twentieth century. The music, selected by Hal Willner, ranges from classical to pop, from Arvo Pärt and Henry Mancini to Tom Waits’s “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” and Napoleon XIV’s novelty hit, “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!,” bringing levity to the proceedings as Nijinsky’s battle with mental illness intensifies. The mysterious projections are by Tomek Jeziorski; Jacques Reynaud designed Baryshnikov’s costumes, which include a straitjacket, while choreographer Lucinda Childs collaborated on the movement. As with most of Wilson’s works, there are many striking, memorable images that are likely to stay with you for a long time, from Baryshnikov sitting in a chair up on a wall in an almost blindingly white space to him slowly inching backward on a dark beam, moving away from the aforementioned large window, from him approaching a projection of a battlefield to performing a little soft shoe. It’s a glowing tribute that is fraught with sadness, memorializing a special dancer who was overcome by a debilitating disease.
BAM Fisher, Fishman Space
321 Ashland Pl.
October 26-29, $25, 7:30
Polish companies Laznia Nowa Theater and TR Warszawa (Nosferatu, Festen) have teamed up for Request Concert, a one-character show running at the BAM Fisher October 26-29. Translated by Danuta Żmij-Zielińska from German playwright Franz Xaver Kroetz’s 1971 hyperrealistic play, Request Concert features Danuta Stenka as Fräulein Rasch, an average woman going about her average life, a fifty-year-old stenographer returning home after a day at work. Taking aim at loneliness in modern society, the seventy-five-minute production is directed by Yana Ross, with music by Aśka Grochulska and Tomasz Wyszomirski, lighting by Mats Öhlin, and multimedia set design by Simona Biekšaitė. “Karl Marx defines a time ripe for revolution when the masses are fed up with oppression and the elite is no longer able to control them,” Ross explained shortly before the play’s premiere in Poland. “But what if the financial elite has adapted with the times and worked out a way to keep the masses more or less occupied with consumerism, keeping them busy with enough daily small rewards and pleasures to forget the pain of a senseless cycle of life?” All tickets for the dialogue-free show, being staged in the round at the intimate Fishman Space, are $25, and attendees are encouraged to walk around to experience Fräulein Rasch’s futility from all angles.
THE ROOF GARDEN COMMISSION
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden
1000 Fifth Ave. at 82nd St.
Daily through October 31, recommended admission $12-$25
MetFridays: Friday, October 28, 6:30
Don’t let Halloween pass by without a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In her Guardian nomination for 2016 Visionary, British artist Cornelia Parker hinted at her upcoming Met Roof Garden commission, saying, “I always think of New York as Europe on steroids, so I’m celebrating American culture, but through European eyes. I’ll make something that adds to the view.” Her site-specific installation went up in April, and it will remain as a temporary addition to the view of the New York City skyline visible from the roof through, appropriately enough, Halloween. “Transitional Object (PsychoBarn)” is a multilayered construction that melds fiction with reality, a soothing work that is just the right amount of twisted. Using materials obtained from a dismantled Dutch red barn in Schoharie in Upstate New York, Parker has re-created the facade of the creepy Victorian house from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, where Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) lived with his mother. The Psycho house, which itself was just a facade on a Hollywood studio set, was inspired by Edward Hopper’s “House by the Railroad,” so Parker, who was raised on a farm in rural Cheshire, where there were black barns, is referencing American pop culture, art history, and her own personal story. She’s also combining a kind of good and evil duality; barn raisings, for example, are a joyous community event, while the Psycho house evokes gloom and doom, murder and madness.
As if revealing the twenty-eight-foot-tall work’s inner psyche, Parker keeps the back open so visitors can see the scaffolding and heavy water tanks that keep the facade from collapsing, which relates to her new artist book, Verso, in which she explores the front and back of button holes. “Transitional Object” is named for the medical term for a security blanket, an item that brings children comfort as they grow up and spend less time with their mother — except maybe for Norman Bates, who created a rather unique transitional object for himself. The structure blends in well with the city skyline, which features many a building that just might be haunted, while also offering fun-house-style reflections in the Met’s mirrored wall by the rooftop bar. Parker, who has previously placed Tilda Swinton in a glass case at the Serpentine Gallery for “The Maybe” and blew up a garden shed for “Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View,” will be at the Met on October 28 at 6:30 to talk about the project as part of the MetFridays presentation “Artists on Artworks — Cornelia Parker,” which is free with museum admission and is first-come, first-served; stickers will be handed out twenty minutes before the event. For more Halloween joy, MetLiveArts is screening the Peanuts holiday classic It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on October 29 at 11:00 am and 1:00 pm, with live music by Rob Schwimmer and his ensemble, followed by costume parades.
JU-ON: THE GRUDGE (Takashi Shimizu, 2002)
BAMcinématek, BAM Rose Cinemas
30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Pl. & St. Felix St.
Thursday, October 27, 9:30
“Black cats feature in the mythology of many cultures, and superstitions about them are still familiar to most of us in modern times. They are a prime example of the contrariness of many of our superstitious beliefs; some swear they’re lucky, others see them as a sign of certain doom,” Chloe Rodes writes in Black Cats and Evil Eyes: A Book of Old-Fashioned Superstitions. BAMcinématek certainly had the latter in mind when it programmed its Halloween series “13 Cats,” a baker’s dozen of feline horror stories running through November 3 at BAM Rose Cinemas. The frightfest kicked off October 21-23 with the Hayao Miyzazaki favorite Kiki’s Delivery Service and also includes the Nobuhiko Obayashi cult classic Hausu, Roger Corman’s The Tomb of Ligeia, David Lowell Rich’s Eye of the Cat, Kaneto Shindô’s Kuroneko, and both Jacques Tourneur’s and Paul Schrader’s Cat People. On October 27, Takashi Shimizu’s Ju-On: The Grudge will cross movie fans’ path in Brooklyn. After making two Ju-Ons for Japanese video, Shimizu wrote and directed this feature-length haunted-house movie that he later also turned into an American version starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. A terrifying ghost (Takaka Fuji) who emits bizarre sounds keeps killing just about anyone who enters her suburban home, where a husband murdered his wife and their black cat, and their young son went missing. But don’t worry; the white-faced kid (Yuya Ozeki) continually shows up in the strangest of places, as does a very creepy woman. (Don’t look under the sheets.) The more Rika (Megumi Okina) gets involved, the spookier things get. And poor Izumi (Misa Uehara) and Hitomi (Misaki Itô). You’re likely to have trouble falling asleep after watching this truly scary, extremely confusing film, which Shimizu was afraid would be too laughable.
In many ways a precursor to Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece, Spirited Away, the magical My Neighbor Totoro is a fantastical trip down the rabbit hole, a wondrous journey through the sheer glee and universal fears of childhood. With their mother, Yasuko (voiced by Lea Salonga), suffering from an extended illness in the hospital, Satsuki (Dakota Fanning) and her younger sister, Mei (Elle Fanning), move to a new house in a rural farming community with their father, anthropology professor Tatsuo Kusakabe (Tim Daly). Kanta (Paul Butcher), a shy boy who lives nearby, tells them the house is haunted, and indeed the two girls come upon a flurry of black soot sprites scurrying about. Mei also soon discovers a family of totoros, supposedly fictional characters from her storybooks, living in the forest, protected by a giant camphor tree. When the girls fear their mother has taken a turn for the worse, Mei runs off on her own, and it is up to Satsuki to find her. Working with art director Kazuo Oga, Miyazaki paints My Neighbor Totoro with rich, glorious skies and lush greenery, honoring the beauty and power of nature both visually as well as in the narrative. The scene in which Satsuki and Mei huddle with Totoro (Frank Welker) at a bus stop in a rainstorm is a treasure. (And just wait till you see Catbus’s glowing eyes.) The movie also celebrates the sense of freedom and adventure that comes with being a child, without helicopter parents and myriad rules suffocating them at home and school. (Note: BAM will be screening the English-language version in the “13 Cats” series.)