This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001


dine around downtown

28 Liberty Plaza
Between Liberty & Pine and Nassau & William Sts.
Tuesday, May 22, 11:00 am - 3:00 pm
Admission: free, all dishes $7 and less

Sponsored by the Downtown Alliance, the seventeenth annual Dine Around Downtown will feature signature dishes from more than three dozen Lower Manhattan restaurants, from pizza places and burger joints to steak and seafood houses. Among the participating eateries are ATRIO Wine Bar, Battery Gardens, Bavaria Bier Haus, Blue Ribbon Bakery, the Capital Grille, Cowgirl SeaHorse, Delmonico’s, Eataly, Financier Patisserie, Harry’s Italian, Inatteso, Le District, Mad Dog & Beans Mexican Cantina, OBAO Water Street, Parm Battery Park, Route 66 Smokehouse, Stone Street Tavern, SUteiShi, the Tuck Room, and Ulysses’ Folk House. There will also be live music by the National Jazz Museum in Harlem-All Stars and a raffle. Each plate goes for no more than $7, with proceeds benefiting the Downtown Alliance, which “is striving to make Lower Manhattan a wonderful place to live, work, and play by creating a vibrant multi-use neighborhood.”


The Earrings of Madame De . . .

The Comtesse Louise de . . . (Danielle Darrieux) reflects on her life in The Earrings of Madame De . . .

THE EARRINGS OF MADAME DE . . . (Max Ophüls, 1953)
Quad Cinema
34 West 13th St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Sunday, May 20, 4:50, and Tuesday, May 22, 9:05
Series runs through May 22

Max Ophüls’s The Earrings of Madame de . . . (also known as just Madame de . . .) is a marvelously told tale, a majestic cinematic achievement that Andrew Sarris considered the greatest movie ever made and Dave Kehr called “one of the most beautiful things ever created by human hands.” In 1950, the German-born auteur made La Ronde, a merry-go-round of romance in which one of the two lovers from one scene moves on to someone else in the next. Three years later, Ophüls again follows a series of current, past, and potential lovers in The Earrings of Madame de . . . , but this time via a pair of diamond earrings whose meaning and importance are altered every time they change hands. The film opens with the Comtesse Louise de . . . (a radiant Danielle Darrieux) looking through her personal possessions, from jewelry to furs to a Bible. During a two-minute continuous shot with a handheld camera, Ophüls shows only her hands and the side of her face until she sits down and looks at herself in the mirror; it not only immediately establishes the woman’s character — like her fancy things, she has become merely another object, an empty reflection — but lets the audience know that they are in the grip of a master, that the very motion of the camera itself will play a central role in what we’re about to experience.

And indeed, Christian Matras’s gorgeous black-and-white cinematography, composed of wonderfully orchestrated close-ups and sweeping montages, guides us along as we follow the travels of a pair of diamond earrings that, through various circumstances, keeps coming back to the countess. Louise, whose last name we never learn through clever blocks made in sound and image, needs money, but she is afraid to let her husband, Général Andre de . . . (a stern Charles Boyer), know. She decides to sell the diamond earrings he gave her as a wedding present — she not only wants the cash but also is seeking to rid herself of what the jewelry represents, a love that is not what it once was. Meanwhile, her husband is saying goodbye to his lover, Lola (Lia Di Leo), shipping her off to Constantinople as if she were a piece of jewelry he no longer requires. But when Louise’s playful flirtation with the graceful Italian diplomat Baron Fabrizio Donati (Neorealist director Vittorio De Sica) threatens to become more serious, Andre gets more serious as well, and the heart-wrenching melodrama reaches epic dilemmas.

The Earrings of Madame De . . .

Général Andre (Charles Boyer) takes a newfound interest in his wife (Danielle Darrieux) in Max Ophüls classic

Loosely adapted by Ophüls with Marcel Achard and Annette Wademant from the novel by Louise Lévêque de Vilmorin, The Earrings of Madame de . . . is a ravishing film, every moment a gem. Darrieux, who also appeared in Ophüls’s House of Pleasure and La Ronde and only passed away this past fall at the age of one hundred, is bewitching as the countess, a long-unsatisfied woman attempting to break out of the shell she has been held captive in. Boyer, who had previously starred in Anatole Litvak’s Mayerling with Darrieux, is beguiling as the general, a proud man who is protective of certain possessions. And De Sica, who appeared in more than 150 films but is best known as the director of such Italian stalwarts as The Bicycle Thieves, Umberto D., and Miracle in Milan, is enchanting as the baron, who has fallen passionately in love with Louise and doesn’t care who knows it. Their courtship is breathlessly depicted in a whirling, swirling series of dances at various balls where they are the last to leave. James Mason, who starred in Ophüls’s Caught and Letters from an Unknown Woman, famously wrote, “A shot that does not call for tracks / Is agony for poor old Max, / Who, separated from his dolly, / Is wrapped in deepest melancholy. / Once, when they took away his crane, / I thought he’d never smile again.” Ophüls, who died in 1957 at the age of fifty-four during the making of Les Amants de Montparnasse, goes all out in The Earrings of Madame de . . . , an unforgettable movie with a spectacular ending. The film is screening May 20 and 22 in the Quad Cinema series “La Cinémathèque française presents: French Melodrama,” a dozen films running through May 22 selected by French critic Jean-François Rauger that also includes Jean-Luc Godard’s Vivre sa vie, François Truffaut’s The Woman Next Door, Alain Resnais’s Mélo, and André Téchiné’s Hôtel des Amériques.


A Letter to Harvey Milk

Retired kosher butcher Harry Weinberg (Adam Heller) remembers an old friend in A Letter to Harvey Milk (photo by Russ Rowland)

The Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row
410 West 42nd St. between Ninth & Tenth Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through June 30, $79

On May 22, Harvey Milk would have turned eighty-eight. Instead, the San Francisco city supervisor and outspoken gay activist was assassinated on November 27, 1978, at the age of forty-eight. His moving life story has been turned into a nonfiction book (Randy Shilts’s The Mayor of Castro Street), an Oscar-winning documentary (Rob Epstein’s The Times of Harvey Milk), an opera (Stewart Wallace and Michael Korie’s Harvey Milk), a two-time Oscar-winning film (Gus Van Sant’s Milk, starring Sean Penn), a cantata by Jack Curtis Dubowsky, and several children’s books. And now comes A Letter to Harvey Milk, a stage musical about Milk’s legacy. It’s 1986, and Harry, a retired kosher butcher, has been given an assignment by Barbara, his senior center writing teacher: He has to write a letter to a deceased person from his past, and he chooses Harvey Milk. Based on the short story by Lesléa Newman, A Letter to Harvey Milk features a book by Jerry James, Cheryl Stern, the late Ellen M. Schwartz, and Laura I. Kramer, with music by Kramer, lyrics by Schwartz, and additional lyrics by Stern. Adam Heller stars as kosher butcher Harry Weinberg, Stern is his deceased wife, Julia Knitel plays Barbara, Michael Bartoli is Milk, and Jeremy Greenbaum, Aury Krebs, and CJ Pawlikowski play multiple ensemble roles. The ninety-minute show is directed by Evan Pappas, with sets by David Arsenault, costumes by Debbi Hobson, lighting by Christopher Akerlind, sound by David M. Lawson, and music direction by Jeffrey Lodin.

A Letter to Harvey Milk

A Letter to Harvey Milk honors the legacy of the San Francisco city supervisor and outspoken gay activist (photo by Russ Rowland)

TICKET GIVEAWAY: A Letter to Harvey Milk runs through June 30 at the Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row, and twi-ny has three pairs of tickets to give away for free for performances June 1-23. Just send your name, daytime phone number, and favorite play or movie about an activist to by Tuesday, May 22, at 3:00 pm to be eligible. All entrants must be twenty-one years of age or older; three winners will be selected at random.


fun in the sun

Essex Street Market
120 Essex St. between Rivington & Delancey Sts.
Saturday, May 19, free (advance registration suggested), 12 noon - 5:00

In the fall, the Essex Street Market, a fixture on the Lower East Side for nearly eighty years, will be moving across the street. So its annual spring block party will be featuring current businesses as well as new ones coming in later this year. Taking place May 19 from noon to five o’clock, the party will include such vendors as Saxelby Cheesemongers, Arancini Bros, Puebla Mexican, Samesa, Josephine’s Feast!, and Harlem Shambles, with most food items five dollars or less. There will also be live music by Yotoco, Cumbiagra, and DJ tres dos.


Maggie Gyllenhaal will be at the Vulture Festival to discuss The Deuce and four other projects

Maggie Gyllenhaal will be at the Vulture Festival to discuss The Deuce and four other projects

Milk Studios (and other venues)
450 West Fifteenth St. between Ninth & Tenth Aves.
Saturday, May 18, and Sunday, May 19, free - $160

New York magazine’s fifth annual Vulture Festival takes place this weekend at Milk Studios and other locations, celebrating pop culture. Below are only some of the nearly three dozen events that encompass film, music, comedy, art, podcasts, books, and more; all tickets include complimentary access to the Vulture Lounge following the event. Among the other participants are Julianna Margulies, Rachel Bloom, Adam Pally, Sutton Foster, Hilary Duff, Debi Mazar, Darren Star, Wendy Williams, Johnny Knoxville, Cameron Esposito, Marti Noxon, Rachael Ray, Adam Platt, Michelle Yeoh, Jonathan Groff, Liev Schreiber, David Edelstein, Bo Burnham, and Wyatt Cenac.

Saturday, May 19
John Leguizamo: In Conversation, moderated by Matt Zoller Seitz, followed by a book signing, Milk Studios — Penthouse, $30, 11:30 am

One Book, One New York, One Event: Jennifer Egan in conversation with Adam Moss, Milk Studios — Studio 1, free with advance registration, 2:30

Maggie Gyllenhaal in Five Acts, conversation focusing on five of her projects, Milk Studios — Penthouse, $30, 4:00

Roxane Gay and Amber Tamblyn Present Feminist AF, with special guests Jennine Capó Crucet, Sharon Olds, and Morgan Parker, Milk Studios — Studio 1, $30, 6:45

Tracy Morgan in Hilarious Conversation, moderated by Matt Zoller Seitz, Milk Studios — AT&T Studio, $30, 8:00

Claire Danes and Jim Parsons will be at Milk Studios on May 20 to discuss their new film, A Kid Like Jake

Claire Danes and Jim Parsons will be at Milk Studios on May 20 to discuss their new film, A Kid Like Jake

Sunday, May 20
Jerry Saltz’s Masterly Tour of the Met Breuer, tour of the Met exhibit “Like Life” led by Jerry Saltz, Met Breuer, $150, 9:00 am

Boozy Brunch with Your Best Friends Gillian Jacobs, Vanessa Bayer, and Phoebe Robinson, conversation with stars of new Netflix film Ibiza, moderated by Michelle Buteau, Milk Studios — Studio 4, $30, 12 noon

Claire Danes and Jim Parsons’s A Kid Like Jake, discussion of new movie with actors Claire Danes and Jim Parsons, director Silas Howard, and writer Daniel Pearle, Milk Studios — Studio 1, $30, 2:15

In Conversation with Samantha Bee, the Full Frontal Team, and Rebecca Traister: discussion with Samantha Bee, Melinda Taub, Ashley Nicole Black, Allana Harkin, Mike Rubens, and Amy Hoggart, moderated by Rebecca Traister, Milk Studios — AT&T Studio, $40, 5:45

Ava DuVernay and the Cast of Queen Sugar, with Ava DuVernay, Rutina Wesley, Dawn-Lyen Gardner, and Kofi Siriboe, Milk Studios — Studio 4, $30, 6:45


(photo by Joan Marcus)

P-Sam (Francois Battiste) has some harsh words for Blue (J. Alphonse Nicholson) as Corn (Keith Randolph Smith) and Pumpkin (Kristolyn Lloyd) look on in Dominique Morisseau’s Paradise Blue (photo by Joan Marcus)

The Pershing Square Signature Center
The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre
480 West 42nd St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves.
Extended through June 10, $30 through June 3, $65 after

Paradise Blue, which opened tonight at the Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre at the Pershing Square Signature Center, celebrates and extends the great tradition of exceptional sociopolitical American plays established by August Wilson. In 2013, actress, poet, and playwright Dominique Morisseau began “The Detroit Projects,” a three-play series centered on her Michigan hometown, inspired by Wilson’s “Century Cycle,” ten works set in each decade of the twentieth century in his native Pittsburgh. Paradise Blue, which comes after 2013’s Detroit ’67 and before 2016’s Skeleton Crew, takes place in the primarily black neighborhood of Black Bottom in Paradise Valley in 1949, on the eve of an urban renewal push. (Coincidentally, Wilson’s second Pittsburgh play was Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.) The tortured Blue (J. Alphonse Nicholson) is a trumpet player who owns the Paradise Club, following in the footsteps of his father. He has just fired the bassist, leaving his bandmates, ornery drummer P-Sam (Francois Battiste) and thoughtful, considerate pianist Corn (Keith Randolph Smith), in the lurch as he prepares a solo that is proving difficult for him and arranging for the sweet and innocent Pumpkin (Kristolyn Lloyd), his lover who works at the club, to sing a number in public for the first time.

Amid rumors that Blue is going to sell the club as part of Detroit mayor Albert Cobo’s gentrification plan for Black Bottom — “Ain’t nobody pullin’ no more favors outta me. I been pullin’ favors up to my ears and I’m goin’ tone deaf,” Blue explains — the mysterious Silver (Simone Missick) struts in, renting a room at the Paradise for an extended period of time, paying cash up front. “If it’s somewhere that Colored folks is doing more than sharecroppin’ and reapin’ White folks’ harvest . . . I ought to be there,” she says. Silver is the opposite of Pumpkin, wearing silky, revealing black clothing, instantly commanding the attention of every man in any room she enters. “Spiderwoman. That’s what they call her,” P-Sam says. “She go walkin’ like that. . . . some kinda sexy spider . . . lurin’ fellas into her web. And then just when you get close to her . . . she stick into you and lay her poison.” As the night of the show approaches, P-Sam questions Blue’s loyalties, Corn and Pumpkin are both getting close to Silver, and Blue has to face some deep, dark demons.

(photo by Joan Marcus)

Blue (J. Alphonse Nicholson) takes hold of Pumpkin (Kristolyn Lloyd) in New York premiere at the Signature (photo by Joan Marcus)

Paradise Blue keeps the spirit of August Wilson alive while further confirming Morrisseau (Pipeline, Blood at the Root) as a rising star in her own right. The play is smoothly directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, like a bandleader orchestrating a jazz number, albeit more of a nocturne than swing or bebop. A close friend of Wilson’s, Santiago-Hudson is the co-artistic director of a New York Public Radio project that is recording all ten plays in Wilson’s American Century Cycle; he won a Tony for Best Featured Actor for his performance in Seven Guitars, earned another Tony for directing Jitney last year, and took home an Obie for directing The Piano Lesson at the Signature in 2013. (He also portrayed the writer in Wilson’s one-man show, How I Learned What I Learned, at the Signature.) Neil Patel’s two-part set features Silver’s bedroom in one corner and the interior of the nightclub on the rest of the stage; the audience sits in rising rows on the horizontal sides. Above it all is a rusty marquee that spells out the club’s name in lights. The facade separating the floor from the balcony is plastered with concert posters of icons who supposedly played the Paradise, from Muddy Waters, Billie Holiday, and Duke Ellington to Jimmie Lunceford, Howlin’ Wolf, and Louis Jordan.

Rui Rita’s sensitive lighting focuses between the two rooms as well as, occasionally, on Blue’s horn, which resides on a trumpet stand on the club stage, as if it’s his soul haunting him, while Darron L West’s fine sound design lets the music soar. Wilson regular Smith (Jitney, Fences, King Hedley II) is superb as the gentle, caring Corn; Smith has such a calming presence that watching him onstage, no matter what he’s doing, is warm and comforting. Obie winner Battiste (Head of Passes, The Good Negro) portrays the suspicious P-Sam with a fire in his belly; Lloyd (Dear Evan Hansen, Invisible Thread) is adorable as the vulnerable Pumpkin, a wide-eyed young woman in love with poetry but frightened of taking charge of her life; and Missick (Misty Knight in Luke Cage and The Defenders) is sexy and alluring as Silver, who is no mere femme fatale. However, Nicholson (Seven Guitars, Caleb Calypso and the Midnight Marauders) can only do so much as Blue (a role originated at the 2015 Williamstown Theatre Festival by Blair Underwood), who is not as fully drawn and fleshed out as the other characters, his motivations not as evident throughout the play. But that turns out to be a minor quibble in what otherwise is an exciting and captivating work that evolves with the rhythm of the blues as it explores race, class, and family legacy. Paradise Blue is the first of three Morrisseau plays that the Signature will present during her five-year residency; I’m already hungering for the next one.


Symphony Space honors Leonard Bernstein with Wall to Wall presentation on May 19 (photo by Don Hunstein, 1961; courtesy of Sony Music)

Symphony Space honors Leonard Bernstein with Wall to Wall presentation on May 19 (photo by Don Hunstein, 1961; courtesy of Sony Music)

Symphony Space, Peter Jay Sharp Theatre
2537 Broadway at 95th St.
Saturday, May 19, free with advance RSVP (reserved premium seating $100-$250), 3:00 - 11:00

Symphony Space celebrates the fortieth anniversary of its popular Wall to Wall series on May 19 with Wall to Wall Leonard Bernstein, eight hours of the Maestro’s music, divided into three segments, running from 3:00 to 5:30, 5:30 to 8:30, and 8:30 to 11:00. Free general admission tickets are available in advance, or you can get premium reserved seating for $100 per segment or $250 for the whole eight hours. The show will feature compositions (and occasional dance) from West Side Story, On the Town, Wonderful Town, Candide, Peter Pan, and On the Waterfront in addition to such works as the Chichester Psalms, Three Meditations from Mass, To What You Said, The Lark (French and Latin Choruses), Simple Song, and Halil: Nocturne for Flute, Percussion, and Piano. Among the many performers are pianists Garah Landes, Simon Mulligan, Michael Brown, Grant Wenaus, Peter Dugan, and Eric Huebner, cellists Summer Boggess and Nick Canellakis, percussionists Gregory Landes, Daniel Druckman, Pablo Rieppi, and Sae Hashimoto, bassists Randy Landau and Aaron Theno, flutists Janet Axelrod and Mindy Kaufman, sopranos Harolyn Blackwell and Elizabeth Smith, baritone John Brancy, Calliope Brass, DUO: Stephanie and Saar, the Pit Stop Players, Keigwin + Company, and many more. The event will also include film clips and discussions about Bernstein’s life and career. Over the decades, the Wall to Wall program has also honored such luminaries as Steve Reich, Johnny Cash, Stephen Schwartz, Stephen Sondheim, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Aaron Copland, and the Gerswhins, among others.