A sleeper hit at Sundance that enjoyed a hair-raising extended run at IFC Center and was named Best First Film of 2014 by the New York Film Critics Circle, The Babadook is back at IFC as part of the “Waverly Midnights: Parental Guidance” series, screening ten minutes past midnight on Friday and Saturday night. The Babadook is a frightening tale of a mother and her young son — and a suspicious, scary character called the Babadook — trapped in a terrifying situation. Expanded from her 2005 ten-minute short, Monster, writer-director Jennifer Kent’s debut feature focuses on the relationship between single mom Amelia (Essie Davis), who works as a nursing home aide, and her seemingly uncontrollable six-year-old son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), who is constantly getting into trouble because he’s more than just a little strange. Sam was born the same day his father, Oskar (Ben Winspear), died, killed in a car accident while rushing Amelia to the hospital to give birth, resulting in Amelia harboring a deep resentment toward the boy, one that she is afraid to acknowledge. Meanwhile, Sam walks around with home-made weapons to protect his mother from a presence he says haunts them. One night Amelia reads Sam a book that suddenly appeared on the shelf, an odd pop-up book called Mister Babadook that threatens her. She tries to throw it away, but as Sam and the book keep reminding her, “You can’t get rid of the Babadook.” Soon the Babadook appears to take physical form, and Amelia must face her deepest, darkest fears if she wants she and Sam to survive.
The Babadook began life as a demonic children’s book designed by illustrator Alex Juhasz specifically for the film — and one that can now be preordered from the movie’s website, although you might want to think twice before inviting the twisted tome into your house. The gripping film, shot by Polish cinematographer Radek Ladczuk in subdued German expressionist tones of black, gray, and white with bursts of other colors, evokes such classic horror fare as Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, and Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, where place plays such a key role in the terror. The Babadook itself is a kind of warped combination of the villains from F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and Hideo Nakata’s The Ring. Kent, a former actress who studied at Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Art with Davis, lets further influences show in the late-night television Amelia is obsessed with, which includes films by early French wizard Georges Méliès. But the real fear comes from something that many parents experience but are too ashamed or embarrassed to admit: that they might not actually love their child, despite trying their best to do so. At its tender heart, The Babadook is a story of a mother and son who must go through a kind of hell if they are going to get past the awful way they were brought together. “Waverly Midnights: Parental Guidance,” consisting of horror films in which parents play important parts, concludes June 28-29 with Brian De Palma’s Carrie.
Black Box Theatre
Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre
111 West 46th St. between Sixth & Seventh Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through June 30, $30
Kathryn Erbe is riveting as a mother obsessed with scrubbing away all remnants of a horrible crime in Something Clean, Selina Fillinger’s fierce yet sensitive new drama continuing at the Roundabout Underground’s Black Box Theatre through June 30. Erbe is Charlotte, a married mother of a son who is in prison for committing a despicable, if unexpected, crime. Charlotte spends much of the play cleaning — she carries around yellow gloves, Neosporin, and Band-Aids, at the ready to wipe away the recent past and protect any wounds; she also meticulously vacuums and does the dishes and the laundry over the course of ninety minutes. In fact, the play opens with her explaining, “I can clean toilets. Bathrooms, storage rooms, clothing, whatever you need. I’m really good at tackling stains, any stains.” Charlotte is volunteering at the local Center for Sexual Assault Prevention and Intervention, where she meets Joey (Christopher Livingston), a survivor who runs the place and befriends her, although she does not tell him her full name or who her son is. She also does not tell her husband, Doug (Daniel Jenkins), that she is working there as the previously happy couple deals with the traumatic strain their family is going through, each handling things their own private way.
As she grows more distant to Doug, who travels often for business and is worried about Charlotte’s state of mind, she becomes much closer to Joey, treating him almost like a son. She desperately tries to keep the two parts of her life separate; Joey calls her Charly, while Doug calls her Lottie, intimately and uniquely cutting her name in half. Reid Thompson’s set highlights that difference: The audience sits on the two horizontal sides of the stage, which features a storage room at the center on one side and Doug and Charlotte’s bedroom and kitchen on the other. In the middle is a round table that exists in both worlds, a shared space destined to bring it all together. Margot Bordelon’s (Eddie and Dave, Too Heavy for Your Pocket) astute direction and Jiyoun Chang’s deeply expressive lighting help guide the audience as they watch the play unfold in the style of a tennis match as the action goes back and forth between the two locations, in addition to a gaspworthy surprise.
Erbe (The Grapes of Wrath, The Father), Jenkins (Oslo, Big River), and Livingston (Wilder Gone, Party People) are terrific in what is essentially a series of poignant duets, but it’s Fillinger’s (Faceless, The Armor Plays: Cinched/Strapped) writing that stands out. The Chicago-based actress and playwright, who graduated from Northwestern only three years ago, shows a remarkably perceptive understanding of human nature, especially regarding marriage and parenthood, for someone so young. A scene late in the play when Doug and Charlotte take a stark look at their life is so beautifully written, so insightful and observant, that it brought tears to my eyes. Something Clean takes on several hot-button issues and approaches them with touching grace and intelligent humor, elevating it above so many social justice plays, making it about so much more than wiping up a mess or sweeping problems under the carpet.
BROOKLYN, SOUTH / ONE NITE ONLY: LITTLE FUGITIVE (Morris Engel, Ray Ashley, and Ruth Orkin, 1953)
Nitehawk Cinema Prospect Park
188 Prospect Park West
Wednesday, June 19, 7:45
One of the most influential and important — and vastly entertaining — works to ever come out of New York City, Morris Engel’s charming Little Fugitive will be having a special screening with live music on June 19 at 7:45 at the Nitehawk Cinema at Prospect Park, performed by Reel Orchestrette, which has previously provided live accompaniment to such diverse films as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Faust, Wings, The Holy Mountain, and Our Gang and Buster Keaton shorts. Written and directed with Ray Ashley and Ruth Orkin, Engel’s future wife, Little Fugitive follows the gritty, adorable exploits of seven-year-old wannabe cowboy Joey Norton (Richie Andrusco, in his only film role), who runs away to Coney Island after his older brother, Lennie (Richard Brewster), and his brother’s friends, Harry (Charlie Moss) and Charley (Tommy DeCanio), play a trick on the young boy, using ketchup to convince Joey that he accidentally killed Lennie. With their single mother (Winifred Cushing) off visiting her ailing mother, Joey heads out on his own, determined to escape the cops who are surely after him. But once he gets to Coney Island, he decides to take advantage of all the crazy things to be found on the beach, along the boardwalk, and in the surrounding area, including, if he can get the money, riding a real pony.
A no-budget black-and-white neo-Realist masterpiece shot by Engel with a specially designed lightweight camera that was often hidden so people didn’t know they were being filmed, Little Fugitive explores the many pleasures and pains of childhood and the innate value of home and family. As Joey wanders around Coney Island, he meets all levels of humanity, preparing him for the world that awaits as he grows older. Meanwhile, Engel gets into the nooks and crannies of the popular beach area, from gorgeous sunrises to beguiling shadows under the boardwalk. In creating their beautifully told tale, Engel, Ashley, and Orkin use both trained and nonprofessional actors, including Jay Williams as Jay, the sensitive pony ride man, and Will Lee, who went on to play Mr. Hooper on Sesame Street, as an understanding photographer, while Eddie Manson’s score continually references “Home on the Range” (although there’s no telling what Reel Orchestrette will do). Rough around the edges in all the right ways, Little Fugitive became a major influence on the French New Wave, with François Truffaut himself singing its well-deserved praises. There’s really nothing quite like it, before or since. The underground classic, which won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1953, was nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar, was entered into the National Film Registry in 1997, and was recently restored, features several long, dialogue-free scenes, so the live score should be quite a treat.
The High Line
Spur at Thirtieth St. & Tenth Ave.
June 19-20, July 17-18, August 14-15, free with advance RSVP, 8:00
One of the best places to see live performances in the city is one of the best places in the city itself, the High Line. The nonprofit organization continues its fourth annual monthly summer “Out of Line” series June 19 and 20 with Puerto Rican dancer Antonio Ramos’s No Agenda Genda, a sci-fi interactive piece honoring the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall riots of June 1969. Come prepared to participate in unexpected ways. On July 17 and 18, “Out of Line” presents new experimental group Mooncake Collective’s Twice the Moon, a site-specific dive into resistance and rebellion, incorporating shadow puppetry, Chinese opera, and fireside storytelling to relate the tale of a pair of queer Chinese friends. And on August 14 and 15, A.R.M.’s (Alexandro Segade, Robert Acklen, and Malik Gaines) Blood Fountain explores HIV/AIDS through ritual, pageantry, and improvisation. All shows are at 8:00, and admission is free with advance RSVP; reservations are open for No Agenda Genda and begin for Twice the Moon on June 21 and Blood Fountain on July 19.
June 17-30, free - $300 and more
This year’s pride festivities honor the fiftieth anniversary of Stonewall, which set the Gay Pride movement in motion in full force. There are some new events, while the March itself has changed its route, so pay close attention to the locations listed below. As always, the ticketed events and VIP treatment are selling out fast, so you better act quickly if you want to shake it up at some pretty wild gatherings. Also be on the lookout for the World Mural Project in all five boroughs and the Quilt Initiative, which displays portions of the AIDS Memorial Quilt in numerous places.
Monday, June 17
NewFest OutCinema, screening of Adam (Rhys Ernst, 2019), followed by a a Q&A with Ernst and members of the cast and a party, SVA Theatre, 333 West 23rd St., $30-$100, 7:00
Tuesday, June 18
NewFest OutCinema, screening of Invisible Women: The Story of Two Forgotten Revolutionaries (Alice Smith, 2019) and Deep in Vogue (Amy Watson & Dennis Keighron-Foster, 2019), followed by a a Q&A with the filmmakers, moderated by Twiggy Pucci Garçon, SVA Theatre, 333 West 23rd St., $30-$100, 7:00
Wednesday, June 19
NewFest OutCinema, screening of Wig (Chris Moukarbel, 2019), followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers, Lady Bunny, and others, SVA Theatre, 333 West 23rd St., $30-$100, 7:00
Friday, June 21
Family Movie Night, screening of Coco (Lee Unkrich & Adrian Molina, 2017), with field games and live entertainment, hosted by Miss Richfield 1981, Pier 45, Hudson River Park, free ($50 for VIP blanket seating), 6:30
Saturday, June 22
CosPlay & Pride, sunset cruise with Aja and others, hosted by Petra Fried, Pier 40, Hudson River Park, 353 West St., $45, 6:00
Sunday, June 23
Pride Luminaries Brunch, Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge, 485 7th Ave., $85, 11:00 am
Monday, June 24
Tuesday, June 25
Human Rights Conference, with Raquel Willis, Janet Mock, and Tracey “Africa” Norman, New York Law School, 185 West Broadway, $30-$50, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Tuesday, June 25
GameChangers, panel discussion, Q&A, and reception with George Takei, Trace Lysette, Leyna Bloom, and others, SVA Theatre, 333 West 23rd St., $15-$35, 6:00
Wednesday, June 26
WorldPride Opening Ceremony, benefiting Ali Forney Center, Immigration Equality, and SAGE, with Cyndi Lauper, Billy Porter, Chaka Khan, Ciara, Daya, Todrick Hall, and others, Barclays Center, $45-$226, 7:00
Friday, June 28
Savor Pride, food-driven fundraiser, with dishes by chefs Renee Blackman, Julia Turshen, Alex Koones, Manuel González Charles, Lazarus Lynch, and more, God’s Love We Deliver, 166 Sixth Ave. at Spring St., $80-$125, 5:30
Rally: Stonewall 50 Commemoration, performers and speakers to be announced, Christopher St. & Waverly Pl., free, 6:00
Saturday, June 29
Youth Pride, for LGBTQIA+ and ally teens, with Ava Max, DJ Nhandi, Deetranada, Angelica Ross and Hailie Sahar from Pose, and more, SummerStage, Central Park, free, noon - 6:00 pm
VIP Rooftop Party, with DJs GRIND, Toy Armada, Ben Baker, and Kitty Glitter and more, the Park, 118 10th Ave., $100-$150, 2:00 - 10:00 pm
Teaze, with bklyn boihood, TRUUU, Set It Off, Rose Gold, Yellow Jackets Collective, and more, the DL, 95 Delancey St., $40-$80, 5:00 – midnight
Saturday, June 29
Sunday, June 30
Pride Island, with Grace Jones, Teyana Taylor, Pabllo Vittar, and more, Pier 97, Hudson River Park at Fifty-Ninth St. & West Side Highway, 2:00 - 10:00
Sunday, June 30
PrideFest, twenty-sixth annual street fair with music, food, merchandise, and more, featuring live performances by Lauren Jauregui, the Veronicas, Melanie C & Sink the Pink, and others, hosted by E. J. Johnson, Fourth Ave. between Union Square and Astor Pl., free, 11:00 am – 6:00 pm
The March, with grand marshals Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, Monica Helms, the Trevor Project, Gay Liberation Front, and members of the cast of Pose, Lavender Line from Twenty-Sixth St. & Fifth Ave., downtown to Washington Square Park and Stonewall National Monument, and back up to Twenty-Third St. & Seventh Ave., free, 12 noon
Femme Fatale, women’s party with DJs Kittens, Mary Mac, Bonnie Beats, Nikki Lions, and Lena, the Park, 118 10th Ave., $40-$65, 4:00 - midnight
Siren, with Mindy Jones, DJ Whitney Day, DJ Tatiana-Denver, and DJ MO-NYC, hosted by Crissa Ace and Kiyomi Valentine, Watermark, Pier 15, 78 South St., $45 – $275, 9:00 pm - 4:00 am
WorldPride Closing Ceremony, with live performances by Melissa Etheridge, Jake Shears, MNEK, The Prom, Deborah Cox, and more, hosted by Margaret Cho, Times Square, free, 7:00
Irish Repertory Theatre, Francis J. Greenburger Mainstage
132 West 22nd St. between Sixth & Seventh Aves.
Through June 22, $50-$70
The Irish Rep concludes its outstanding “O’Casey Cycle” with the third play in Sean O’Casey’s Dublin Trilogy, The Plough and the Stars. The controversial 1926 work, the follow-up to 1923’s The Shadow of a Gunman and 1924’s Juno and the Paycock, the semiautobiographical The Plough and the Stars is the earliest of the stories, taking place in 1915-16 around the Easter Rising, when the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army battled the British army and Dublin Fusiliers, Catholics against Protestants in a violent rebellion. Charlie Corcoran’s immersive set, which extends up the sides of the theater and down the hall, changes from a tenement apartment to a pub and the street outside as a close-knit collection of intriguing characters prepare for a fight.
The play begins in November 1915 in the living room of Jack Clitheroe (Adam Petherbridge), a bricklayer, and his wife, Nora (Clare O’Malley), an elegant woman who wants more out of life; he’s a bit disappointed as well, dismayed that he had been passed over for a promotion to captain in the ICA. Carpenter Fluther Good (Michael Mellamphy) is attempting to get rid of the squeak in the front door as nosy charwoman Mrs. Grogan (Úna Clancy) accepts a package for Nora and opens it to find a fancy hat. “Such notions of upper-osity she’s getting’,” she declares. “Oh, swank, what!” Nora comes home to find her uncle, the daffy Peter Flynn (Robert Langdon Lloyd), and Fluther having words with the Young Covey (James Russell), a wisecracking atheist and socialist who enjoys riling people with his progressive beliefs.
Fruit vendor and Protestant loyalist Bessie Burgess (Maryann Plunkett) stops by to heap disdain on Nora, calling her a “little over-dressed trollope.” After everyone else leaves, Capt. Brennan (John Keating) arrives to tell Jack that he is the new commander of the eighth battalion of the ICA and must lead a reconnaissance attack, which upsets Nora, who wants him to stay home with her. Jack storms out with Capt. Brennan, and a distraught Nora is then visited by Mollser (Meg Hennessy), Mrs. Gogan’s sickly fifteen-year-old daughter who dreams of having the life Nora does. “I often envy you, Mrs. Clitheroe, seein’ th’ health you have, an’ th’ lovely place you have here, an’ wondherin’ if I’ll ever be sthrong enough to be keepin’ a home together for a man,” Mollser says. As a regiment passes by on its way to the front, Bessie sticks her head in to condemn the soldiers. It’s a brilliant first act, firmly establishing the characters, mixing in humor with dread as darkness awaits. “Is there anybody goin’, Mrs. Clitheroe, with a titther o’ sense?” Mollser asks.
The next three acts build on that extensive framework, with the addition of prostitute Rosie Redmond (Sarah Street), a barman (Harry Smith), a woman from Rathmines (Terry Donnelly) who is terrified of what is going on outside, and Jack’s flag-waving compatriots Lt. Langon (Ed Malone) and Sgt. Tinley (Smith). Director Charlotte Moore, the cofounder of the Irish Rep with Ciarán O’Reilly, knows the play well; she previously helmed the company’s 1988 production, its first show ever, as well as its 1997 revival. In honor of the Irish Rep’s thirtieth anniversary season, O’Reilly again is the voice of the speaker, as he was in 1988, spouting rhetoric to the assembled masses based on the words of Irish activist Padraig Pearse. The cast, most of whom also appear in The Shadow of a Gunman and Juno and the Paycock, is exemplary, creating a wholly believable fictional world.
During the first week of the premiere of The Plough and the Stars at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 1926, there were protesters and demonstrators angry with O’Casey’s treatment of Irish nationalism and religion, leading to a riot in which actor Barry Fitzgerald punched out a man who had climbed onstage, knocking him into the orchestra pit. “You have disgraced yourselves again,” senator and Abbey director W. B. Yeats said to the crowd. “Is this going to be an ever-recurring celebration of the arrival of Irish genius?” The 2019 iteration of the play might not pack the same kind of wallop, but it is a potent portrayal of civil strife and the power religious and political disagreement has to tear apart friends and neighbors, something we know all too well given the current climate in America.