Who: Oriana Leckert, Hungry March Band, Morgan O’Kane, Batala NYC, Stefan Zeniuk, DJ Dirtyfinger, the Artist Formerly Known as Anya Sapozhnikova and others from House of YES, Dani Leigh & Demi Fyrce of Big Sky Works
What: Book party celebrating the launch of Brooklyn Spaces: 50 Hubs of Culture and Creativity (Monacelli Press, May 19, $29.95)
Where: Gowanus Ballroom, 55 Ninth St.
When: Saturday, May 30, free (suggested donation $10), 7:00 - late
Why: In her new book expanded from her popular website, Brooklyn Spaces, Oriana Leckert selects fifty of the most unusual and fascinating places in Brooklyn, documenting, as she writes in the introduction, “the Brooklyn I know, the Brooklyn that is mine, the Brooklyn that endlessly inspires me with its passion, innovation, and experimentation.” On May 30, Leckert will host a crazy-mad book party at the Gowanus Ballroom, one of the locations detailed in the book. “One of the most perfect representations of a Brooklyn underground arts space, the Gowanus Ballroom succeeds beautifully at artistic exhibition, cultural advancement, and creative commerce, all within a gorgeously strange historic building,” Leckert writes. (Other spots included in the book are Brooklyn Brainery, Flux Factory, the Invisible Dog, the Morbid Anatomy Museum, the Schoolhouse, Superhero Supply Co., and the Swamp.) The all-night book launch will feature art, music, dance, photography, and lots of unpredictable goings-on, selected from other cultural institutions and artist houses singled out in the book.
“This is the best dinner theater ever,” my companion said to me about halfway through Queen of the Night, the immersive, all-inclusive presentation running at the resurrected Diamond Horseshoe at the Paramount Hotel. The six-thousand-square-foot nightclub, which was opened by impresario Billy Rose in 1938 and hosted many a celebrity and performer until its closing in 1951, is now home to the decadently delightful Queen of the Night, a three-hour affair inspired by Mozart’s The Magic Flute and the real-life adventures of the Marchesa Luisa Casati, the Italian heiress, patron, muse, and original female dandy who once declared, “I want to be a living work of art.” And that’s exactly what she is in the show, as portrayed by Martha Graham veteran Katherine Crockett in a tantalizing mask and an elegant, dramatic flowing white gown accessorized by two life-size sculptures of caressing gold hands. The abstract narrative ostensibly follows young initiate Pamina (Valerie Benoit-Charbonneau), the Marchesa’s daughter, who is caught between the sorcerer Sarastro (Will Underwood) and her true love, Tamino (Tristan Nielsen). But Queen of the Night is really about lavish spectacle, as minor characters perform dazzling acrobatics, diving through hoops, climbing poles, juggling unusual objects, riding a Cyr wheel, and dangling from the ceiling from aerial silk. (The circus elements come courtesy of Shana Carroll and her Montreal troupe Les 7 Doigts de la Main, including Olaf Triebel, Emilie Desvergne, and Zia Zhengqi; members of the company also appear in Diane Paulus’s current revival of Pippin.)
Ultimately, how much you enjoy Queen of the Night is up to you; the more adventurous and open you are to just about anything, the more unpredictable and exciting the experience will be. Upon entering the transformed, glittering nightclub, you are encouraged to explore, and explore you should, checking out every nook and cranny that security allows; you’ll find strange artifacts of a time gone by, perhaps get picked to pay tribute to the queen, and maybe even help shave Pamina’s legs in a bathtub while a man reads from a book about the G-spot. During the show, you are likely to get stroked by various servant-slave butlers or the queen herself and might also be chosen to take part in some of the wild activities going on around the stage. And if you want to taste all of the food — the kitchen serves salmon Wellington, chicken, and lamb you slice yourself, with various accompaniments — you’ll have to get up from your table and trade portions with strangers.
Conceived by Randy Weiner, the producer of the Macbeth-inspired Sleep No More and cocreator (with Paulus, his wife) of the Midsummer Night’s Dream-based The Donkey Show, Queen of the Night is directed by Tony-nominated scenic designer Christine Jones (Spring Awakening, American Idiot), who is also currently helming the very different Theatre for One piece I’m Not the Stranger You Think I Am, a show of minimalist five-minute one-actor plays by famous playwrights for one audience member at a time. QOTN requires somewhat more intensive staging than that: Also deserving praise are lighting designer Austin R. Smith, fashion designer Thom Browne, set (and scent?!) designer Douglas Little, choreographer Lorin Latarro, interior designer Meg Sharpe, creative director Giovanna Battaglia, and executive chef Jason Kallert. As immersive theater goes, Queen of the Night has it all, mixing contemporary dance, acrobatics, fab costumes, magic, audience participation, and good food. There are three ticket levels, Gala ($195), Premium ($275), and Ultimate ($475), each of which comes with dinner but otherwise includes different amenities, seating, and access. If you allow yourself to get swept up in all the titillating pageantry, well, Queen of the Night just might be the best dinner theater ever.
UHF (Jay Levey, 1989)
136 Metropolitan Ave. between Berry St. & Wythe Ave.
Tuesday, June 2, $75, 7:15
“Aw, what’s wrong, Bobbo?” George Newman (“Weird Al” Yankovic) says to Bobbo the Clown (David Bowe) in UHF. “I bet I know! You’re hungry, aren’t you? Have I got just the thing for you!” While George offers Bobbo what he thinks are “the mouth-watering, lip-smacking taste” of Mrs. Hackenberger’s Butter Cookies but in actuality are Yappy’s Dog Treats, Brooklyn’s Nitehawk Cinema will be serving up something a little more palatable when it screens the 1989 cult classic on June 2 in its ongoing Film Feasts series. As you watch Weird Al spoof such flicks as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Conan the Barbarian, and Rambo and low-budget kids’ television shows with the help of Michael Richards, Victoria Jackson, Kevin McCarthy, Emo Philips, Dr. Demento, Gedde Watanabe, David Proval, Billy Barty, and Fran Drescher, you can enjoy a seven-course menu with special drinks that features “Waiters of the Lost Ark” (Big Edna burger and Twinkie Wiener sandwich), “Philo’s Chemistry Set” (Prickly Pear Limoncello shot), “Mr. Butterfingers’ Red Face” (finger sandwich), “What’s it gonna be, Weaver?” (Wheel of Fish ceviche), “Good Watermelon” (Avua Cachaça, fresh watermelon), “Cuz They’re Real Fishy” (Margherita pizza with white anchovies), and “Fifth Blood Part 1” (bahn mi). Channel 62 never tasted so good.
Theodore Roosevelt Park, Columbus Ave.
May 27-30, $105-$225
It wasn’t too long ago that the Upper West Side was not exactly known for its culinary excellence. But times change, and the neighborhood will be strutting its comestible stuff this week at New Taste of the Upper West Side, a trio of food-based events benefiting the Columbus Avenue Business Improvement District and Theodore Roosevelt Park. On May 27 at 7:30, Soirée in the Park ($150) will bring together Sarabeth Levine of Sarabeth’s, Rodney Mitchell of Calle Ocho, Dennis Petronio of Gastronomie 491, Lala Sharma of Savoury Indian Restaurant & Bar, Scott Bryan of the Milling Room, and Luke Holden and Ben Conniff of Luke’s Lobster for an elegant cocktail party featuring hors d’oeuvres, champagne, and live chamber music. On Friday night at 7:00 ($105), Comfort Classics consists of forty local restaurants serving “home-style fare,” hosted by Adam Richman, with food tastings, wine, cocktails, beer, and live music by the Silver Arrow Band; among the participating eateries are Artie’s Delicatessen, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, Firehouse, Gabriela’s, Haru, Isabella’s, Momofuku Milk Bar, Pasha, Serafina, Sugar and Plumm, the Meatball Shop, and Virgil’s Real BBQ. And on May 30, Best of the West (general admission $135, VIP $225) promises glitz and glamour from forty preeminent UWS chefs and restaurateurs, including host Marc Murphy (with Anne Burrell and Lauren Scala) and Haley Fox and Lauren Fox from Alice’s Tea Cup, Olivier Quignon from Bar Boulud, Matthew Tivy from Café du Soleil, Michael Navarette from Café Luxembourg, Chris Wall from Cesca Enoteca, John Frasier from Dovetail, Bobbie Lloyd from Magnolia, Olivier Dessyn from Mille Feuille, Andy D’Amico from Nice Matin, William Sanders from Ocean Grill, Michael Lomonaco and Michael Ammirati from Porter House New York, Joe Quintana from Rosa Mexicano, Jacques Torres, Jean-George Vongerichten, and many more.
Who: Honorees Michelle Coffey, Icema Gibbs, Paul Januszewski, Juliana May, Cathy Nolan, Martha Sherman, Rebecca Trent, Jimmy Van Bramer, and Mac Wellman
What: Tenth annual Taste of LIC, presented by the Chocolate Factory
Where: Gantry Plaza State Park, 49th Ave. at the East River
When: Tuesday, June 2, $65-$400, 6:30
Why: Taste of LIC celebrates the growth of the Long Island Community, and for its tenth year it will be honoring ten leaders (one posthumously) in Gantry Plaza State Park, where more than fifty restaurants will be providing food and drink, including Alewife NYC, Alobar, Antidote Chocolate, Astor Bake Shop, Bear Bar & Restaurant, Beija Flor, Bella Via Restaurant, Casa Enrique, the Creek & the Cave, Crescent Grill, Dominie’s Hoek, M. Wells, Manducatis Rustica, Manetta’s Ristorante, the Pie Lady, Sage General Store, Skinny’s Cantina, Southern Wheels Eats, Sweetleaf, Tournesol, and Zenon Taverna. There will also be raffle prizes from more than one hundred LIC businesses, with proceeds benefiting the Chocolate Factory, as well as a live performance by Jon Kinzel, with New York City Council majority leader Jimmy Van Bramer serving as master of ceremonies.
CPR — Center for Performance Research
361 Manhattan Ave.
Tuesday, May 19, $25-$50, 6:30
Cofounded in 2009 by Jonah Bokaer (Chez Bushwick) and John Jasperse (Thin Man Dance), the Center for Performance Research is dedicated to “supporting artistic processes that integrate visual design, installation, and technology.” On May 19, CPR will host its sixth anniversary celebration in its LEED-certified green home in Williamsburg, an evening of food, drink, mingling, and movement. The night begins at 6:30 with a cocktail reception, followed by an hour of film and performance, consisting of Joanna Kotze’s Find Yourself Here — Duet, in which she is joined by Stuart Singer; Niall Jones’s not titled; and Mono No Aware’s Figures of Motion, a collection of 8mm and 16mm dance shorts: Michele Cappello’s I Thought I Knew, Laura Bartczak’s Kym, Daniel Lupo’s Meet Me, Katie Fleming’s Behind the Front Lines, Colby Sadeghi’s Madelyn, and Rachael Abernathy’s POW. Then the festivities kick into high gear with a postshow party.
Hundreds of gourmands enjoyed a different Cinco de Mayo last Tuesday at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum Complex at Choice Streets 2015, the Village Voice’s fourth annual outdoor gathering of mobile eateries. The music this year was particularly appropriate, as the all-female Mariachi Flor de Toloache band provided the tunes as attendees enjoyed amazing views of NYC from the decks of the Intrepid as well as cool information about an array of fighter planes and jets on display. Below on the pier, ticket holders sampled fare from more than a dozen trucks, including the ever-popular Korilla BBQ and Domo Taco; two types of grilled cheese sammies (Snowday’s maple-sweetened offering beat Gorilla Cheese, hands down); three kinds of pizza, from Valducci’s, Pizza Luca, and a surprise Pizza Luna; and, for dessert, eclairs and Bomb Pops from Vintage Ice Cream’s Good Humor truck, cookies and brownies from the Treats Truck, and more than three dozen flavors of Andy’s Italian Ice. Unfortunately, some crowd-pleasing favorites canceled at the last minute; the Brooklyn Organic Coffee & Tea Truck, Carl’s Steaks, King of Falafel and Shawarma, Solber Pupusas, and Yankee Doodle Dandy’s were particularly missed, especially by those who paid $85 for VIP treatment, although there were a few additions to try to make up for it, including Mofongo. You definitely needed patience, as some of the lines stretched out pretty far, and several of the offerings were pretty scant (and you could only get one sample per truck), so the smarter streeters filled up their beer and wine before settling in for longer waits. The evening’s highlight was our introduction to the Langos Truck’s amazing fried dough Hungarian specialty, which we’ll be seeking out on the streets.