Who: Lynn Goldsmith
What: Book talk, Q&A, and signing
Where: Morrison Hotel Gallery, 116 Prince St., second floor, 212-941-8770
When: Tuesday, March 26, free, 6:00 - 8:00
Why: From 1977 to 1980, photographer Lynn Goldsmith chronicled the rise of KISS, the hard rock group consisting of lead singer and bassist Gene Simmons, lead guitarist Ace Frehley, rhythm guitarist and vocalist Paul Stanley, and drummer Peter Criss. On March 27, the band, which now features Simmons, Stanley, lead guitarist Tommy Thayer, and drummer Eric Singer, will play Madison Square Garden for the last time as it makes its way around the world on its farewell tour. The night before, on March 26 at 6:00, Goldsmith will be at the Morrison Hotel Gallery on Prince St. to present her 2017 gift to the loyal KISS Army, KISS: 1977-1980, an illustrated book that collects more than 250 shots of the band along with text contributions from Simmons and Stanley. “I have to admit appreciating singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, or Paul Simon a great deal more than the music of KISS, but who would I rather photograph or pay to see in concert? No contest: KISS,” Goldsmith writes in the introduction. Goldsmith will talk about working with KISS, participate in a Q&A, and sign copies of the book; in addition, prints will be on display. If you’re wondering where KISS is that night, it’s the third of three off-days prior to the MSG show.
The Bitch Seat, which bills itself as “therapy for your misspent youth,” is celebrating its fifth anniversary with a special show March 24 at Q.E.D. Astoria. Host, producer, and “neurotic hippie” Lyssa Mandel and her cohost and boyfriend, Phil Casale, will be joined by comedians and storytellers Jeff Simmermon, Oscar Collazos, and Angel Yau, with music by Rebecca Vigil and a guest appearance by Myq Kaplan. The live talk show delves into the pain we all experience during adolescence, looking back at it with both horror and humor. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 day of show.
“These are the memories of human beings,” Cambodia photographer Kim Hak says in Cross Transit, an engrossing collaboration with Japanese dancer and choreographer Akiko Kitamura and Amrita Performing Arts Center of Phnom Penh. There’s one night left — March 23 — to see the show at Japan Society. With the seventy-five-minute multimedia piece, Kitamura continues her exploration of the future of Asia, following To Belong, on which she worked with Indonesian artists on such topics as diversity and inclusion. Cross Transit is Kitamura and Hak’s attempt to recapture a past that has gone missing because of the violent reign of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979; in a way, the work is a dance about photography and architecture. In voiceover Cambodian narration that is translated by an English speaker, Hak explains that many families, including his own, had to either destroy or bury personal photos to protect themselves from the oppressive regime, hiding their identities to avoid being arrested, tortured, and killed.
While recovered family photos and new pictures taken by Hak of abandoned buildings are projected behind them on three stretched canvases, Kitamura, Ippei Shiba, Yuka Seike, Yuki Nishiyama, Llon Kawai, and Chy Ratana move about the otherwise dark stage like lost souls or ghosts, reaching out with their hands and arms, trying to make connections in awkward, aggressive ways. They dance in haunting silence, to Hak’s words, narration by Paul Dargan, electronic noise, a Cambodian pop song, percussive sounds evoking gunshots and the snap of a camera, original music by Hiroaki Yokoyama, and vocalizations by Yoshie Abe; Akihiko Kaneko designed the set and the projected films, with dramatic lighting by Yuji Sekiguchi and naturalistic costumes by Tomoko Inamura. The motion of the dancers is initially slow and individual but eventually moves more closely in unison, with several impressive lifts and carries and rolls along the floor. In one section the dancers call out words in English, Japanese, and Cambodian, including “Here,” “Home,” “Now,” and “What are you talking about?” (The non-English words are not translated.) The Cross Transit project, which began in 2014, continues with “vox soil,” a collaboration between Cambodian, Indonesian, Indian, and Japanese artists. Kitamura (Enact Frames of Pleasure, Ghostly Round) and Hak will participate in a Q&A following the March 23 performance at Japan Society.
HUNGER (Steve McQueen, 2008)
BAMfilm, BAM Rose Cinemas
30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Pl. & St. Felix St.
Monday, March 25, 4:00 & 9:30
Series runs March 20-28
In 2004, we saw Steve McQueen’s fascinating video installation of three short works at Wellesley’s Davis Museum. As entertaining and intriguing as that show was, it never could have prepared us for Hunger, the British-born Turner Prize winner’s brutal and harrowing feature-length debut, let alone his follow-up, 12 Years a Slave. Winner of the Camera d’Or at Cannes, Hunger is set amid the Troubles in Northern Island, as IRA members are locked up in the Maze prison. Seeking special category status, the prisoners are on a Blanket and No Wash protest, refusing to wear official garb or clean up after themselves. They wipe their feces all over their cell walls and let their maggot-infested garbage pile up in corners. Meanwhile, the guards, who live in their own kind of daily fear, never miss a chance to beat the prisoners mercilessly. McQueen (Shame, Widows) introduces the audience to the infamous prison through the eyes of one of the high-ranking guards, Raymond Lohan (Stuart Graham), and new prisoner Davey Gillen (Brian Milligan). Cinematographer Sean Bobbitt often lets his camera linger on a scene, with little or no dialogue, composing them as if individual works of art; one particularly gorgeous shot features Lohan having a cigarette outside the prison as snow falls. About halfway through, the film radically changes focus as Father Dominic Moran (Liam Cunningham) visits H Block leader Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender), leading to sixteen minutes of uninterrupted dialogue, the camera never moving, as the two men discuss Sands’s planned hunger strike. Written with Enda Walsh (Disco Pigs, The Walworth Farce), McQueen’s film is a visually stunning, emotionally powerful story that will leave you ragged.
Hunger is screening March 25 in the BAM / Triple Canopy series “On Resentment,” which asks such questions as “How can resentment be reclaimed by those who are used to fits of anger and bitterness being called unproductive, petty, selfish, even pathological?” and “Can — and must — resentment be useful?” The series continues through March 28 with such other films as Liang Zhao’s Petition, Lucretia Martel’s Zama, Lino Brocka’s Manila in the Claws of Light, Brett Story’s The Prison in Twelve Landscapes, and Christine Choy and Renee Tajima-Peña’s Who Killed Vincent Chin?
The Public Theater, Newman Theater
425 Lafayette St. by Astor Pl.
Tuesday - Sunday through March 31
The Public Theater’s pairing of two one-act solo plays, Simon Stephens’s Sea Wall and Nick Payne’s A Life, is no mere combination of works by star British playwrights performed by a Tony nominee and an Oscar nominee, respectively. Instead, it’s a powerhouse double header of intimate explorations of loss and love, of what it means to be a husband, a father, and a son, that will leave you emotionally exhausted and exhilarated. American actor Jake Gyllenhaal and English actor Tom Sturridge wanted to work together, and they ultimately decided to share an evening of one-man shows written by playwrights they felt a kinship with; Gyllenhaal was previously in Payne’s If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet and Constellations, while Sturridge was in Stephens’s Punk Rock and Wastwater.
As the audience is entering the Newman Theater, Sturridge walks onstage, looking more like a member of the crew. He grabs a beer from a small desk, adjusts a light, and sits at the top of a ladder, having a drink and checking his cell phone. When the audience realizes it’s the star and instantly hushes, he says, “That’s all right; you don’t have to be quiet yet.” It’s a line that might not be in the script but establishes him as just one of us. A few minutes later, he turns off the lights himself and becomes Alex, starting a riveting monologue about his daughter, Lucy, his wife, Helen, and his father-in-law, a proud soldier. He wanders slowly all over Laura Jellinek’s strikingly bare set, which features a piano to one side and a large brick landing in the back. Talking about photography, he advises that “if you possibly can, then take [a picture] from below the subject. It renders the subject actually oddly, what it does is it renders them not more heroic, not more god-like, oddly it renders them more human.” Having been so instructed, we understand that when he climbs the ladder and walks along the higher part of the stage in the back, he’s just another person, no different from anyone else. He talks about Lucy’s birth, going diving with his father-in-law, the existence of God, and the surging strength of the ocean. Forty-five minutes after he begins, he turns out the lights, and intermission offers a brief chance to recover from the affecting drama we have all experienced.
Next Gyllenhaal takes the stage and turns out the lights, standing in one spotlight for nearly his entire fifty-five-minute monologue, which also deals with family. (The actual lighting designer is Peter Kaczorowski.) A Life was originally Payne’s deeply personal memory about his father’s illness, but he has expanded it by adding the story of the birth of his daughter, so it fits extraordinarily well with Stephens’s Sea Wall. As Abe, Gyllenhaal quickly goes back and forth between his character taking care of his ailing father and getting ready for his wife to give birth to their first child. It all happens so fast that it’s sometimes hard to follow the transitions, but it adds to the excitement as the tale plays out like a procedural. Payne avoids most of the traps of a clichéd life-death exchange as each part heads toward its gripping conclusion, with graphic details that will make you squirm in your seat. Like with Sturridge’s Alex, Gyllenhaal’s Abe is so honest and forthright, capturing every key moment, that you’ll think you’re seeing the events they’re describing with vivid clarity, watching his father’s decline and his wife’s tense pregnancy as they collide toward a bittersweet ending.
There are numerous similarities between the two shows, several of which are purely coincidental; both include lines about aging, skin cracking, the television show ER, three generations of family, and holes in the body, real and metaphorical. Director Carrie Cracknell (A Doll’s House, The Deep Blue Sea) skillfully allows them to intertwine ever so subtly with deft touches that pack a terrific one-two punch. Early in A Life, Gyllenhaal says something that zeroes in on many aspects of each play: “I remember reading somewhere or maybe someone telling me about this idea that there are three kinds of deaths. . . . The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when we bury the body, or I guess set it on fire. And the third is the moment, sometime way in the future, when our names are said, spoken aloud, for the very last time. I’m thinking to myself but I don’t say it, I wonder who’s gonna say our child’s name for the last time?” Gyllenhaal (Sunday in the Park with George, Brokeback Mountain) and Sturridge (Orphans, 1984) might not be acting face-to-face onstage, but the characters and the actors’ individual performances relate organically to each other; they rehearsed together to make it all feel cohesive and tried out many variations in previews, and the actors still make minor adjustments every night depending on audience reaction. Sea Wall flows beautifully into A Life, as if Stephens (Heisenberg, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) and Payne (Elegy, Incognito) had collaborated extensively from start to finish, which is not the case, but Cracknell, Sturridge, and Gyllenhaal transform them into one interconnected piece that deals with some very difficult yet compelling topics.
Japanese dancer and choreographer Akiko Kitamura’s Cross Transit has been traveling across the world, and it pulls in to Japan Society this week for two shows, on Friday and Saturday. The seventy-five-minute work is a collaboration between Kitamura, Amrita Performing Arts Center, and Cambodian photographer Kim Hak, with performers from Japan and Cambodia — Kitamura, Ippei Shiba, Yuka Seike, Yuki Nishiyama, Llon Kawai, and Chy Ratana — moving in front of a stretched canvas onto which their shadows are cast and Hak’s deeply personal photographs and video, capturing a Cambodia that is fading from memory, are projected in a collage-like, fragmented manner. The piece also includes text by Hak, with costumes by Tomoko Inamura, lighting by Yuji Sekiguchi, sound design by Hiroaki Yokoyama, and set design and projections by Akihiko Kaneko. Kitamura (Enact Frames of Pleasure, Ghostly Round), the founder of the Leni-Basso dance company, spent time in Phnom Penh studying Cambodian movement, spiritual rituals, and martial arts and participated in workshops with Hak; Kitamura, who was last at Japan Society for the world premiere of TranSenses in January 2017, has also collaborated with Indonesian artists on To Belong in her quest to incorporate a wide range of Asian artistic styles into her movement language and to bring countries together through cultural exchange. The March 22 performance will be followed by a meet-the-artists reception, while the March 23 show will be followed by an artist Q&A.
The second annual What the Fest!? is a five-day extravaganza of crazy films that will have you muttering out loud, “What the f!?” Held at IFC Center, the festival opens March 20 with the world premiere of indie horror maestro Larry Fessenden’s creepy Depraved, a modern-day Frankenstein tale set in New York City. Fessenden, who has made such underground faves as Habit, Wendigo, and The Last Winter, will participate in a postscreening Q&A with producers Jenn Wexler and Chadd Harbold and cast members, while the video presentation Frankenstein Origins will precede the movie. That same night, the New York City premiere of Crazy Pictures’ Swedish thriller The Unthinkable will be preceded by Sydney Clara Brafman’s one-minute short The Only Thing I Love More Than You Is Ranch Dressing and a Q&A with Professor Anna Maria Bounds about the coming New York apocalypse.
Among the other bizarro highlights are Pollyanna McIntosh’s Darlin’, preceded with a tribute to late horror writer Jack Ketchum by Douglas E. Winter; Shinichiro Ueda’s One Cut of the Dead, followed by a panel discussion on making zombie flicks; Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe’s suburban comedy Greener Grass; the panel discussion “Female Trouble: Fearless Women Leading the Way in Horror, Fantasy, and Suspense,” with Meredith Alloway, Roxanne Benjamin, Emma Tammi, and Wexler; the American premiere of Peter Brunner’s To the Night, starring Caleb Landry Jones; Zack Lipovsky and Adam B. Stein’s Freaks, starring Emile Hirsch; and Chinese master Zhang Yimou’s Shadow, preceded by a talk with stuntwomen Kimmy Suzuki and Ai Ikeda. Oh, as part of the festival special focus “Satan Is Your Friend,” there’s also the world premiere of the restoration of Ray Laurent’s 1970 documentary, Satanis: The Devil’s Mass, which will do a lot more than just have you repeating, “What the f?!,” and New York Asian Film Festival cofounder Grady Hendrix will be on hand to present his latest book, We Sold Our Souls, with a talk and signing. Like we said, WTF?!