You’re not going to find Arnold Schwarzegger, Bruce Willis, Harrison Ford, or Jackie Chan at Brookfield Place May 24-26 as part of SEA: Singular Extreme Actions. But you will see associate artistic director Cassandre Joseph, Jackie Carlson, Daniel Rysak, Felix Hess, Loganne Bond, Tyler DuBoys, Luciany Germán, and Justin Ross, the action heroes who make up STREB Extreme Action Company. Based in Brooklyn and under the leadership of Elizabeth Streb, the troupe combines dance and movement with breathtaking acrobatics using specially created apparatuses from which they propel themselves. Having seen the company perform several times, including at the World Financial Center, which is now known as Brookfield Place, I can vouch for the phenomenal abilities of these action heroes, who most definitely do not ever use stunt doubles. From May 24 to 26, they will be flirting with danger in the air and on the ground, performing pieces from their repertoire, which features “Air,” “Tilt,” “Squirm,” “Steel,” “Tied,” “Slam,” “Quake,” “Little Ease,” “Falling,” “Rock,” and “Silver.” The free shows, as always with DJ/MC Zaire Baptiste, will take place at 12:30 and 6:00 on May 24 and 25 and at 12:30 on May 26. In addition, there will be a KIDACTION class at 9:00 in the morning on May 26; advance registration is recommended.
The Met Breuer
945 Madison Ave. at 75th St.
May 22-24, free with museum admission
MetLiveArts artist in residence Andrea Miller concludes her year-long residency with the world premiere of (C)arbon, a multimedia dance piece made in conjunction with the exhibition “Like Life: Sculpture, Color, and the Body (1300–Now).” Miller, the artistic director and choreographer of the Brooklyn-based Gallim company, collaborated with visual artist and filmmaker Ben Stamper on the project, which explores the human body; Will Epstein composed the soundscape, with costumes by fashion designer Jose Solis. “I am fascinated by the phenomenon of the human body and its mostly elusive and invisible engines: its biology, its chemistry, its emotions, its history, its culture, and its inhabiting will and spirits,” Miller explained in a statement. “I hope to both unsettle and relieve our concerns of the human body and its quotidian and epic journey and potential.” The ninety-minute work, performed by a rotating cast of six Gallim dancers (Allysen Hooks, Sean Howe, Gary Reagan, Connor Speetjens, Haley Sung, and Georgia Usbourne), takes place on the fifth floor of the Met Breuer on May 22 at 1:00 and 3:30 and May 23 and 24 at 11:00, 1:00, and 3:30 and is free with museum admission. On the third and fourth floors, “Like Life” consists of more than one hundred lifelike sculptures dating back seven hundred years. “Melding sound and body with Andrea and her gifted dancers is a joyful alchemy,” Epstein said in a social media post. “Their skillful blend of sensitivity and strength immediately casts a spell and is deeply inspiring to work with and simply to be around.” Just to reiterate, the durational work is not being performed within the exhibition; instead, it is performed in three galleries with no art on the walls, so the piece is a work of art unto itself.
Brooklyn Academy of Music
BAM Harvey Theater
651 Fulton St.
through May 27, $25-$150, 7:30
The walls are closing in on the Tyrone family and there’s not much anyone can do about it in Sir Richard Eyre’s deeply intimate staging of Eugene O’Neill’s autobiographical masterpiece, Long Day’s Journey into Night, a work so personal that O’Neill never wanted it to be performed. Eyre initially brought the show to the Bristol Old Vic as part of the venerable institution’s 250th anniversary in 2016, with Oscar, Emmy, and Tony winner Jeremy Irons as James Tyrone and Olivier winner and Oscar nominee Lesley Manville as his wife, Mary; the Bristol was where Eyre saw his first play and where Irons trained. A stunning, slightly amended production is now running at the BAM Harvey through May 27 before heading out to California. Rob Howell’s set is staggeringly breathtaking, a large living room with sharply angled glass walls and ceilings that seem to both threaten and expose James and Mary as well as their sons, the sickly Edmund (Matthew Beard) and the ne’er-do-well Jamie (Rory Keenan), along with the maid, Cathleen (Jessica Regan). James is a famous actor who, emotionally crippled by childhood poverty, chose the easy way out, a financially successful career touring his big hit, The Count of Monte Cristo, rather than pursuing artistic challenges. Despite his money, he remains fearful and miserly, and his family has been scarred by it. While James, Jamie, and Edmund drink heartily, Mary is addicted to painkillers, claiming they are for the rheumatism that is crippling her hands. She has recently returned from yet another stay in a sanitarium, and the men are keeping a close eye on her, particularly when she goes upstairs and spends time in the extra bedroom, where she loses herself in her morphine-addled world. James desperately wants to keep the truth about Edmund’s illness from Mary, but he no longer has the tight grip on his family that he might have once had.
It all takes place on a foggy August day in 1912, but the show feels as relevant as ever, given the current opioid crisis that is devastating America, and O’Neill’s knowing depiction of functional alcoholism is as sharp as ever. Former National Theatre director Eyre (Ghosts at BAM, The Crucible on Broadway) focuses on conversations between two characters, making it feel like we are invading their privacy, intruding on this dysfunctional family, whether we’re watching a sweet, romantic moment between James and Mary, a warm bonding between James and Edmund, or a lovely little talk between Mary and Cathleen. The cast is exceptional, led by a brilliant performance by Manville (The Phantom Thread, Ghosts); she plays Mary with more of a firm grounding than usual, as if Mary has a legitimate fighting chance to beat her addiction. (Previous portrayers of Mary include Tony winners Florence Eldridge, Vanessa Redgrave, and Jessica Lange as well as Geraldine Fitzgerald, Zoe Caldwell, Bibi Andersson, Laurie Metcalf, Liv Ullmann, and Colleen Dewhurst.) In one scene she starts to go upstairs several times but turns back, which tortures her husband and sons and teases the audience, even though we know where she will eventually end up. Irons (Reversal of Fortune, The Real Thing) is classy and erudite as James, his long legs spread apart magnificently when he’s smoking his cigar and reading the paper at the table; he looks at Mary with real tenderness, recalling a love he might never recapture. (The role has earned Tonys for Fredric March and Brian Dennehy and nominations for Jack Lemmon and Gabriel Byrne; other portrayers include Laurence Olivier, James Cromwell, Robert Ryan, Alfred Molina, and David Suchet.)
Tony nominee Beard (Skylight, And When Did You Last See Your Father?) has an amiability not always associated with Edmund, while Keenan (Liola, The Kitchen) is brash and determined as Jamie, who has given up on any kind of reputable future. Regan (Doctors, Liola) makes the most of the small but important role of Cathleen. Peter Mumford’s lighting often results in characters’ being reflected in the windows, like ghostly apparitions of their troubled souls. As dark as the play is, Eyre holds out just enough hope that this time things will turn around for the Tyrones, that maybe Jamie will get a real job, Edmund will beat consumption, Mary will kick morphine, and James will go back to the stage. But as Mary says, “None of us can help the things life has done to us. They’re done before you realize it, and once they’re done they make you do other things until at last everything comes between you and what you’d like to be, and you’ve lost your true self forever.” Written seventy-five years ago, O’Neill’s words still ring true, providing yet more sparks to this American classic.
The Pershing Square Signature Center
The Irene Diamond Stage
480 West 42nd St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through June 10, $30
The Signature Theatre follows its blistering production of Pulitzer Prize winner Stephen Adly Guirgis’s Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train with a wickedly funny adaptation of Guirgis’s Our Lady of 121st Street. Originally presented in 2002 at the LAByrinth Theater and directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, the two-hour play takes place in and around the Ortiz Funeral Home in Harlem, where the body of the dearly departed, much beloved Sister Rose has gone missing. A group of her former students and various other relatives and parishioners are gathering to pay their respects to the nun, an alcoholic who tragically died in the street. Victor (John Procaccino), a middle-aged man in a pair of boxer shorts, stands over the empty coffin and cries out, “What kinda fuckin’ world is this?!” adding, “What did she ever do anyway, huh?! What did Rose ever do till the day she died but to be a fuckin’ living saint on this earth to deserve this . . . this sacrilege!” Local detective Balthazar (Joey Auzenne) affirms, “Sister Rose was a good woman.” People start filtering in, many who have not seen one another in a long time. The mourners include Rooftop (Hill Harper), a flashy, successful morning radio host; the sharp-tongued, even-sharper-dressed Inez (Quincy Tyler Bernstine), Rooftop’s ex-wife; the tough-talking Norca (Paola Lázaro), who apparently has slept around a bit and doesn’t give a shit about anyone; Flip (Jimonn Cole), now known as Robert and living with Gail (Kevin Isola), a male actor, in Wisconsin; Edwin (Erick Betancourt), who has dedicated his life to caring for his younger brother, Pinky (Maki Borden), who is slow because of a head injury; Marcia (Stephanie Kurtzuba), a relative of Sister Rose’s; and Sonia (Dierdre Friel), a friend of Marcia’s.
Walt Spangler’s set features the Ortiz Funeral Home sign (an inside joke for LAByrinth cofounder John Ortiz?) above the empty coffin, a bench that also serves as a bar, and a black structure that rotates from a confessional to a small café table; Keith Parham’s effective lighting helps navigate the action, which unfolds across ten scenes in two acts that cover a little less than twenty-four hours. Over that time, Rooftop decides to confess his myriad sins to Father Lux (John Doman), Flip is desperate to hide his homosexuality from his old crew, Inez attempts to avoid Rooftop but confronts Norca, Edwin sends Pinky out for some Yodels, and Marcia takes an interest in Edwin, all while Balthazar, nipping at his small bottle of booze, tries to figure out what happened to Sister Rose’s body.
Our Lady of 121st Street is superbly directed by Phylicia Rashad (Gem of the Ocean, Immediate Family), who gives ample space to each actor to establish their character and deliver Guirgis’s incisive dialogue, which sizzles like street poetry. This is the third production of the play I’ve seen, including the 2003 version at the Union Square Theatre (starring Ortiz, David Zayas, Ron Cephas Jones, Portia, Russell G. Jones, and others), and what shines through most brightly each time is the writing itself; Guirgis, who won the Pulitzer for Between Riverside and Crazy and earned a Tony nomination for The Motherfucker with the Hat, writes with the rhythm, energy, and honesty of real people living real lives, black, white, Latinx, male, female, whatever. In the case of Our Lady, Guirgis actually had tremendous difficulty coming up with the second act and ultimately finished the play in an overnight fury after Hoffman broke down in tears, afraid that they would have to cancel the show.
Each of the twelve men and women in Our Lady is damaged in some way, either psychologically, emotionally, and/or physically, whether they realize it or not, as they deal with regrets that bubble up to the surface as they reflect on Sister Rose’s demise. “This is, in fact, a confessional, sir. A confessional — not a ‘conversational.’ Do you understand that distinction?” Father Lux tells Rooftop, who has a little trouble getting to the point, hesitant to own up to the specific things he has done. “Pick a commandment, any commandment,” Rooftop says, not necessarily proudly. The idea of the confessional/conversational can be applied to nearly every scene as the twelve characters, Sister Rose’s disciples, take stock of who they’ve become, perhaps remembering what they once wanted to be. The cast is exceptional, an outstanding ensemble that hits all the right notes. Born and raised on the Upper West Side, Guirgis was in Hollywood on 9/11, writing for episodic television. He decided right then that he was through writing about things that did not matter, so as soon as the show was canceled, he returned to the theater. His first play after that was Our Lady of 121st Street, a ferociously funny tale about realistic people facing tragedy in realistic ways.
Between 1965 and 1974, Memphis native William Eggleston took twenty-two hundred photographs while traveling through Tennessee, the Mississippi Delta, New Orleans, Las Vegas, New Mexico, and Southern California, at times accompanied by actor and artist Dennis Hopper and curator Walter Hopps. Eggleston ultimately compiled seventy-five dye-transfer color prints into the large-size portfolio Los Alamos, named after the national laboratory in New Mexico. “This title cloaks with some irony Eggleston’s ostensible subjects, found in a vast American terrain, yet acknowledges his belief in the aesthetic consequences of his private quest,” Hopps later wrote. The quest is so private that there is little information provided about the photographs, which are on display for the first time in New York City as a complete set, continuing through May 28 at the Met Fifth Ave. Most of the pictures are untitled or named for the state or city in which they were taken. There is no wall text or wall labels offering any further information, save for a series of quotes by Eggleston that lend fascinating insight into his creative process. The works, supplemented by a black-and-white series taken around the same time, reveal a mastery of composition and an innate talent for capturing the soul of America, whether it’s an abandoned shack, a bottle of soda on a car hood, a sign by the side of an empty road, an outdoor water fountain and its shadow, or a man making a call from a phone booth. But I’ve already said too much; below is a handful of photos from the show, with some of Eggleston’s quotes that have been stenciled on the walls of the galleries, in between photos.
“A picture is what it is. . . . It wouldn’t make any sense to explain them. Kind of diminishes them. People always want to know when something was taken, where it was taken, and, God knows, why it was taken. It gets really ridiculous. I mean, they’re right there, whatever they are.”
“I do have a personal discipline. . . . I only ever take one picture of one thing. Literally. Never two. So then that picture is taken and then the next one is waiting somewhere else.”
“I think of [the photographs] as parts of a novel I’m doing.”
“I had this notion of what I called a democratic way of looking around: that nothing was more or less important.”
“I don’t spend much time looking at other people’s pictures. It’s never interested me. In color there wasn’t anything to look at that was the kind of photography I wished and wanted to do. I just . . . made it up.”
“I don’t have any favorites. Every picture is equal but different.”
“I don’t have a burning desire to go out and document anything. It just happens when it happens. It’s not a conscious effort, nor is it a struggle. Wouldn’t do it if it was. The idea of the suffering artist has never appealed to me. Being here is suffering enough.”
“Often people ask me what I am photographing. It’s a hard question to answer. And the best I have come up with is I just say ‘life today.’ I don’t know if they believe me or not. Or what that means.”
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 . . . (Max Ophüls, 1953)
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.
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.