Asia Society Museum
725 Park Ave. at 70th St.
Tuesday - Sunday through March 25, $12 (free Fridays from 6:00 to 9:00)
Asia Society’s “In Focus” series, which takes in-depth looks at individual works of art, is currently exploring a magnificent “Chinese New Year Pantheon” painting from the late Qing dynasty. The exhibition, “An Assembly of Gods,” identifies eighty-two of the deities in the seven-foot-high work on paper, less than half the total, from the Buddhist, Daoist, Confucian, and other religions. The show, which continues through March 25, delves into the hierarchical structure of the deities, a bureaucratic arrangement placing such figures as Shakyamuni Buddha, the Jade Emperor, and Confucius at the top center; examines how the work, which is traditionally displayed on New Year’s Day, records the passage of time, represented by the Four Daoist Meritorious Officers, who guard the days, months, seasons, and years; and analyzes the fine techniques used by the anonymous artist while wondering why it was never completed. Among other deities in the painting, which occupies its own room at Asia Society, are the Peacock King, the Buddha of Exalted Virtue, the Black Tortoise, the Five Sacred Peaks, the Stellar God of Immortality, the Five Commissioners of Pestilence, the Gods of the Five Paths to Wealth, the Horse King, and the Earth Goddess. Also on view now at Asia Society is “Unknown Tibet: The Tucci Expeditions and Buddhist Painting” and “Masterpieces from the Asia Society Museum Collection.”
Minetta Lane Theatre
18 Minetta Lane between Sixth Ave. and Macdougal St.
Tuesday - Saturday through May 13, $47-$67
Last fall, Billy Crudup starred in the one-man show Harry Clarke at the Vineyard Theatre. The play is now back, opening last night at the Minetta Lane Theatre, where it continues through May 13, produced by Audible, which recorded and released the Vineyard performance as an audiobook, adding interviews with director Leigh Silverman and playwright David Cale, among other bonus materials. Below is twi-ny’s review from the Vineyard Theatre run.
Tony winner Billy Crudup charms the audience much as the character he plays charms the Schmidt family in David Cale’s riveting one-man show, Harry Clarke. In his first solo performance, Crudup is captivating as Philip Brugglestein, a wayward midwesterner who invented an alter ego, the British-speaking Harry Clarke, as a psychological defense against bullying schoolmates and his mentally and physically abusive father. As an adult, Philip has moved to New York City, where he is floundering. One day, in the mood for an adventure, he follows a random guy in the street; later, he befriends the man, a wealthy financier named Mark Schmidt, but Philip introduces himself as his childhood creation, pretending to be the fun-loving Harry Clarke, a smooth operator from Elstree. (He even claims that he worked for Sade for twenty years.) Harry insinuates himself into Mark’s life, as well as that of Mark’s sister, Stephanie, and mother, Ruth, in a way reminiscent of Tom Ripley in Patricia Highsmith’s books except Harry is no mere con man out for money; he’s seeking connections, searching for his identity, as are most of the characters in the play. “I could be myself if I had an English accent,” he recalls saying as child, later telling his parents, “But it’s my real voice.” Soon Harry finds himself caught up in a situation that he didn’t quite expect.
An actor, composer, and playwright who was born in London and moved to New York when he was twenty, Cale originally wrote Harry Clarke for himself — he has previously written and starred in such solo works as Lillian, Deep in a Dream of You, and The Redthroats and has appeared on The Good Wife and in The Total Bent at the Public — but he eventually opted for Crudup, who has been nominated for four Tonys, winning one (for The Coast of Utopa), and has had major roles in such films as Almost Famous and Jesus’ Son. In his third play at the Vineyard, following Chiori Miyagawa’s America Dreaming and Adam Rapp’s The Metal Children, Crudup commands the virtually bare stage with a tender fury; Alexander Dodge’s set features a lone chair on a deck, a small table where Crudup keeps a glass of water, and a scrim in back for abstract projections that hint at a blue sea and sky, with occasional changes. Two-time Obie winner and Tony nominee Leigh Silverman (Violet, In the Wake), who directed Marin Ireland in the searing one-woman show On the Exhale earlier this year, knows just when to get Crudup on the move. Crudup (Waiting for Godot, No Man’s Land) sits casually before at last getting up and really hitting his stride, doing different voices for every character; the writing is so sharp, and the performance so astute, with a cinematic fervor, that you can easily visualize the places Harry goes, from Sixth Ave. to a gay bar to relaxing on board the Schmidts’ boat, Jewish American Princess. Harry is a big movie fan, preferring noirs and thrillers and listening to records by French film composer Georges Delerue, and Cale’s play becomes like a noir thriller itself; it’s no coincidence that Mark wants to become a movie producer. When Harry and Mark meet for the second time, in a theater, Harry says, “This play’s like a mystery, in that sense, seems more like a movie.” Meanwhile, Philip, of course, is a completely unreliable narrator; all of the events are related through his warped, damaged, unpredictable view, as if he’s created his own movie, but that’s part of what makes the show so tantalizing.
512 West 19th St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves.
Friday, March 23, and Saturday, March 24, $15-$20, 8:00
Nearly thirty years ago, writer and performance artist Constance DeJong and multimedia artist Tony Oursler performed Relatives at the Kitchen, a duet between a human being and a television set that explored questions of family and genealogy through spoken and visual text and various forms of technology. The work, which was commissioned by the ICA Boston, incorporated aspects of art, language, video games, and cinema in telling the story of the fictional McCloud family in words and images. DeJong and Oursler — the two also collaborated with Stephen Vitiello for the 1995 online project Fantastic Prayers, and DeJong portrayed Madam X in Oursler’s recent 5-D Imponderable film and installation at MoMA — are bringing the piece back for two special performances this weekend, Friday and Saturday night at the Kitchen, where it played in 1989, a few years after the video revolution spurred by the success of MTV, so it should be fascinating to see how it has aged in the iPhone generation. “After seeing me perform, Tony invited me to see his work and, almost immediately, he suggested we collaborate,” the Cleveland-born DeJong tells Rachel Valinsky in a new interview on the Kitchen blog. “I was using prerecorded audio in performance and wanted to introduce video in my live work. Tony was like no one. His video sensibility was unique, partly a generational difference: he was twenty-six and had made, in single-channel videos, a very compelling comingling of DIY methods (drawing, paint, cardboard, etc.) and time-based technology. That early Oursler aesthetic is in Relatives.”
Meanwhile, New York City native Oursler explains, “When constructing this work together we played with the idea of a dialogue between live and prerecorded characters and the duality and mutability of image and text. Relatives attempts to register these narrative relationships to a cast of bit players strewn across a vast history of mediums and technologies. As always, our memories have migrated in various forms to oil paintings, home movies and videos, snapshots, and social media, only to be reshuffled by successive generations. DeJong takes a circuitous route through this terrain, pointing out an unlikely family history while always returning to the dilemma of the relationship between the individual and the screen.” At one point in the show, DeJong, in character, looking at images on a small TV, says, “The emotive value of colors, of symbolic animals and plants, I am compelled to arrange my elements much as wind arranges leaves, as a magnet attracts from a pile of things. The number eleven, in this figure which attracts me like no other, my identity, Georgia McCloud, is revealed and yet concealed.” That duology is at the heart of Relatives, which is organized at the Kitchen by Matthew Lyons. “We were working in the dark in a way,” DeJong adds. “Neither of us had produced a performance like this, made of concurrent language and video.”
CinéSalon: JEALOUSY (LA JALOUSIE) (Philippe Garrel, 2013)
French Institute Alliance Française, Florence Gould Hall
55 East 59th St. between Madison & Park Aves.
Tuesday, March 20, $14, 4:00 & 7:30
Series continues through April 17
Nearly fifty years after the release of his first film, the short Les enfants désaccordés, post-New Wave auteur Philippe Garrel has made one of his most intimate and personal works, the deeply sensitive drama Jealousy. Garrel’s son, Louis, who has previously appeared in his father’s Regular Lovers, Frontier of the Dawn, and A Burning Hot Summer, stars as Louis, a character based on Garrel’s own father, essentially playing his own grandfather. As the film opens, Louis, an actor, is leaving his wife, Clothilde (Rebecca Convenant), for another woman, Claudia (Anna Mouglalis). A talented but unsuccessful actress, Claudia immediately bonds with Louis’s young daughter, Charlotte (Olga Milshtein). But soon jealousies of all kinds — professional, romantic, maternal, paternal, residential, and financial — affect all the characters’ desires to find happiness in life.
Shot in widescreen black-and-white by Belgian cinematographer Willy Kurant, who has photographed such films as Jean-Luc Godard’s Masculin Féminin, Agnès Varda’s Les creatures, and Maurice Pialat’s À nos amours during his glorious career, Jealousy is a subtle meditation on the many fears that can accompany love. Somewhat of an innocent, Louis doesn’t yet realize the consequences of his actions, thinking that he can slide through life and good things will just happen. But as his love for the secretive Claudia grows, so do the problems they all encounter. Philippe Garrel wrote the film, which is divided into two sections, titled “I Kept the Angels” and “Sparks in a Powder Keg,” with three collaborators, Caroline Deruas, Arlette Langmann, and Marc Cholodenko, who each took on different scenes, resulting in a choppiness that can be off-putting and disorienting at times, but the strong performances (featuring significant improvisation), tender pacing, quiet interludes, and melancholic score by Jean-Louis Aubert overcome that drawback. The film is very much a family affair — in addition to Philippe directing his son playing Philippe’s father, Philippe’s daughter, Esther Garrel, plays Louis’s sister — adding to the poignancy and intimacy of this very moving story. Jealousy is screening March 20 at 4:00 and 7:30 in the FIAF CinéSalon series “Louis Garrel: Love Songs & Heartbreak,” consisting of films starring and/or directed by Garrel, continuing with Valeria Bruni Tedeschi’s Un château en Italie paired with Garrel’s short La Règle de trois on April 3, Garrel’s feature Two Friends on April 10, and Christophe Honoré’s Love Songs and Garrel’s Little Tailor on April 17. All screenings will be followed by a wine and beer reception.
Legendary interdisciplinary artist Meredith Monk offers a brief prologue to her latest evening-length work, Cellular Songs, with an audiovisual installation in the lobby at the BAM Harvey Theater. Five small monitors, side by side and just about at eye level, show five women (the primary cast of Cellular Songs) uttering sounds as the camera cuts from facial close-ups to just their mouths and to X-rays of the human brain and hand. It serves as an aperitif to the main course, a gorgeous seventy-five-minute piece incorporating experimental sound, movement, video, and lighting. The show begins with a film by Katherine Freer of five enormous hands projected on the stage floor, touching and clutching fingers. Monk then walks out with four members of her Vocal Ensemble, Ellen Fisher, Katie Geissinger, Allison Sniffin, and Jo Stewart, all dressed in loose-fitting white and beige costumes by Yoshio Yabara, who also designed the environment, which features several chairs, a piano in one corner, and a small pile of white clothes near the back. Individually and as a unit, the five women vocalize sounds that form unique rhythms, complemented by their movement, which includes lying on the floor, gathering around the piano, and sitting in a circle, holding hands. Joe Levasseur’s lighting goes from individual and group spots to bathing the production in reds and blues. In the program, Monk explains, “Some of the pieces have much more dissonance and chromatic kind of harmonies, and the forms are almost like three-dimensional sculptures. Earlier, my music had much more to do with layering. Now you can almost see or hear the piece rotating as if it were a sculpture in space, though it’s just a musical form.”
Cellular Songs is a follow-up to the environmentally conscious On Behalf of Nature and was inspired by Siddartha Mukherjee’s Pulitzer Prize–winning book, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. The seventy-five-year-old New York City native has taken the concept of the cell as both healthy and unhealthy biological unit and applied it to music, as if each note is a cell. The majority of the utterances by the five performers are just sounds, although at one point Monk (Songs of Ascension, Vessel) sings the song “Happy Woman,” in which she repeats “I’m a happy woman” over and over again, along with some other adjectives replacing “happy.” The work is about transcendence and connection, about the life cycle of birth, life, and death, as revealed when the Vocal Ensemble is joined by ten members of the Young People’s Chorus of New York City; the fifteen girls and women split into three sets of five by age, each group in slightly different costumes. As Monk also explains in the program, “As artists, we’re all contending with what to do at a time like this. I wanted to make a piece that can be seen as an alternative possibility of human behavior, where the values are cooperation, interdependence, and kindness, as an antidote to the values that are being propagated right now.” Cellular Songs is a multimedia celebration of hope in a deeply troubled era, offering tired souls the opportunity to immerse themselves in a uniquely uplifting aural and visual landscape that is free of sentimentality or rage, instead a place for contemplation, harmony, and more than a little magic.
Ellen Stewart Theatre, La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club
66 East Fourth St. between Second & Third Aves.
Thursday to Monday, March 16 - April 1, $21-$26
Japanese playwright and director Takeshi Kawamura and Michigan-born Obie and Bessie–winning multimedia artist John Jesurun have collaborated on Distant Observer: Tokyo/New York Correspondence, making its world premiere March 16 to April 1 at La MaMa. In a cross-cultural theatrical conversation, Kawamura (Japan Wars, A Man Called Macbeth) and Jesurun (Chang in a Void Moon, Deep Sleep) alternated writing chapters involving a murderer seeking to reinvent himself in Japan’s Suicide Forest; they will share both writing and directing credit for the piece, which features Anastasia Olowin, Kotoba Dan, Claire Buckingham, Kyle Griffiths, and Samuel Im. The March 18 performance will be followed by a talkback with Kawamura, Jesurun, and Japanese theater scholar and journalist Kyoko Iwaki, moderated by CUNY’s Dr. Frank Hentschker.