Thursday, February 23, Nitehawk Cinema, 136 Metropolitan Ave. between Berry St. & Wythe Ave., 718-384-3980, 9:30
Monday, February 27, Alamo Drafthouse Downtown Brooklyn, 445 Albee Square West, 718-513-2547, 7:00
If you’re like us, you can’t watch a movie without identifying many of the actors who have small roles, familiar faces you’ve seen in films and old television series but who rarely get their names in the opening credits. You then scan the closing credits, trying to confirm their appearance. Kevin Maher will explore that phenomenon with two editions of “Kevin Geeks Out About Character Actors.” Among those who come up in the trailers for the February 23 show at Nitehawk and the February 27 show at the Alamo Drafthouse are Elisha Cook Jr., Jack Elam, Robert Morley, Tiny Lister Jr., Taylor Negron, Paul Dooley, Billy Barty, Timothy Carey, and Alice Nunn; if most or all of those names mean something to you, then this is the program for you. Maher, who geeks out about something monthly — past geek-outs have delved into space operas, super villains, Nazi zombies, holiday specials, and the apocalypse — will be joined at Nitehawk by Tanya Smith, Sonya Moore, Ryan Gabos, James Hancock, and Adam Howard and at the Alamo by Ryan Arey, Cristina Cacioppo, Caroline Golum, Bob Satuloff, and Andy Webb. While those names might not ring a bell, here’s some more character actors who might be part of these discussions: Michael Berryman, Zelda Rubinstein, Pete Postlethwaite, Margaret Hamilton, Gerrit Graham, Joan Cusack, Jon Polito, René Auberjonois, and Curtis Armstrong.
The Pershing Square Signature Center
The Irene Diamond Stage
480 West 42nd St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves.
Tuesday-Sunday through March 19, $30 through March 12, $40 after
Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s endlessly inventive Everybody is a magical, mysterious theatrical experience that is a must-see for adventurous theatergoers who relish being challenged over and over again. Rising stars Jacobs-Jenkins (An Octoroon, War, Gloria) and director Lila Neugebauer (The Wayside Motor Inn, The Wolves) explore love and death, dreams and reality, the fear of G-d, the human need for companionship, and the value of each individual life in the ninety-minute play, which opened last night at the Signature Theater’s Irene Diamond Stage for an extended run through March 19. The less you know about Everybody, the more surprises are in store, and the Signature is helping out in several ways. The wall outside the theater, which is usually bedecked with wide-ranging information about whatever play is being performed inside, putting it into sociohistorical context, only contains reproductions of paintings about death by such artists as Rubens and Breugel the Elder, and the audience doesn’t receive a program until the show is over. What we do know and can say, without giving anything away, is that Everybody is an adaptation of the late-fifteenth-century morality/mortality play Everyman, which was an English translation of the Dutch Elckerlijc, which was inspired by a Buddhist fable. At each performance, five members of the cast — Brooke Bloom, Michael Braun, Louis Cancelmi, David Patrick Kelly, and Lakisha Michelle May — line up to find out which abstract, conceptual character they will play, so each show is very different. The wonderfully cheeky Marylouise Burke is always Death, while the terrifically energetic Jocelyn Bioh is always G-d. (The excellent cast also includes Lilyana Tiare Cornell and Chris Perfetti.) “How can it be / that of all my productions, / it is you who have deteriorated / so severely, so vastly disappointing? / And don’t you hear the remainder of my creation, / the wonder that is everything, / crying out for justice against you?” G-d declares early on. To paraphrase Shakespeare, the world is indeed a stage, and we men, women, and children are merely players, with only so much time to justify our existence and get our things in order.
Laura Jellinek’s set is just about as basic as it comes, although with a major twist, consisting of eighteen chairs, the same kind that ticket holders sit in, lined up on a narrow section of the stage in front of a dark wall, blurring the line between audience and performer. Every so often Matt Frey’s lighting goes pitch black and Brandon Wolcott’s sound design takes over as voices are heard throughout the theater; keep your eyes and ears ready, because just about anything can happen anywhere and with anyone as the surprises keep mounting. The second of three works that will make up Jacobs-Jenkins’s Residency Five stay at the Signature (following 2014’s Appropriate), Everybody is an ingenious piece of theater that is involving from the moment you step inside the Irene Diamond. Incorporating splashes of Brecht and Beckett, Jacobs-Jenkins delves into topics that will have you taking a good, long look at yourself, regardless of whether you believe in G-d and the afterlife. You’re also likely to want to go back and see the allegorical show again; there are 120 variations of actors and roles, and the emotional resonance is sure to be very different depending on who gets cast as whom; on any night the main character may be a young woman or an old man. Regardless, just keep your faith in Jacobs-Jenkins and Neugebauer, who take you on quite an existential journey; when the play’s over, facing its own demise, it will of course rise again, living on in more performances and in the memories of those who have experienced it. The Signature has scheduled numerous special events in conjunction with Everybody, including talkbacks with members of the cast and crew after the February 23, 28, and March 7 performances, a Backstage Pass talk with Jellinek before the March 2 show, and a book club gathering on March 16 discussing Paul Kalanithi’s memoir, When Breath Becomes Air, which asks the question, “What makes human life meaningful?”
PHILIP GLASS 80th BIRTHDAY CONCERT SEASON
Composer and pianist extraordinaire Philip Glass, master of “music with repetitive structures,” turned eighty on January 31, and he is celebrating the milestone with a series of special performances in his longtime hometown of New York City. At National Sawdust in Brooklyn, “Philip @ 80” will feature the Complete Piano Etudes by Maki Namekawa on February 24 ($35-$40, 7:00); Bridging the Gap III, consisting of works by Paola Prestini, John Zorn, and Glass performed by cellist Jeffrey Zeigler, bassist Trevor Dunn, percussionist Ches Smith, and Yale School of Music students on March 5 ($29-$34, 7:00), with panel discussions moderated by Steve Smith; and Glass teaming up with Foday Musa Suso and Ziegler on March 12 ($50-$60, 7:00). On March 16 at Carnegie Hall ($35-$200), artistic director Glass will be the focus at the thirtieth annual Tibet House U.S. Benefit Concert, with performances by Laurie Anderson, Ben Harper, Iggy Pop, Alabama Shakes, Sufjan Stevens, Patti Smith and Her Band, the Scorchio Quartet, Tenzin Choegyal and Jesse Paris Smith, and New Order’s Bernard Sumner, Tom Chapman, and Phil Cunningham. And on April 20, the Tribeca Film Festival will host a screening of Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bête with Glass’s live score performed by the Philip Glass Ensemble. In addition, Glass has been selected to hold the Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair at Carnegie Hall for the 2017–18 season, which will feature many classics and premieres.
With protests continuing around the country, and the world, against Donald Trump and his administration, IFC Center is honoring Presidents Day with the special evening “Surviving and Resisting: A Presidents Day Event.” The centerpiece is a screening of the gripping 2012 Oscar-nominated documentary How to Survive a Plague. For his directorial debut, longtime journalist David France, one of the first reporters to cover the AIDS crisis that began in the early 1980s, scoured through more than seven hundred hours of mostly never-before-seen archival footage and home movies of protests, meetings, public actions, and other elements of the concerted effort to get politicians and the pharmaceutical industry to recognize the growing health epidemic and do something as the death toll quickly rose into the millions. Focusing on radical groups ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group), France follows such activist leaders as Peter Staley, Mark Harrington, Larry Kramer, Bob Rafsky, and Dr. Iris Long as they attack the policies of President George H. W. Bush, famously heckle presidential candidate Bill Clinton, and battle to get drug companies to create affordable, effective AIDS medicine, all while continuing to bury loved ones in both public and private ceremonies. France includes new interviews with many key activists who reveal surprising details about the movement, providing a sort of fight-the-power primer about how to get things done. The film also shines a light on lesser-known heroes, several filled with anger and rage, others much calmer, who fought through tremendous adversity to make a difference and ultimately save millions of lives. How to Survive a Plague is screening at 7:30 on February 20, along with three new short documentaries, Jem Cohen’s Birth of a Nation and two works from Laura Poitras’s Field of Vision online platform, Alex Winter’s Trump’s Lobby and Josh Begley’s Best of Luck with the Wall, followed by a Q&A and book signing with France, Cohen (Museum Hours, Instrument), and journalist, documentarian, and visual artist Poitras (Citizenfour, “Astro Noise”). It should be quite a night as people gather to discuss how to survive the plague that has infected the White House.
On June 2, 1958, Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter got married in Washington, DC. Shortly after returning to their Virginia home, Loving, a white man, and Jeter, a black and Native American woman, were arrested and imprisoned by the local sheriff, facing prison sentences because interracial marriage was illegal in their home state. Banished from Virginia, they spent nine years fighting in the courts, and their remarkable tale is now being told in the 2012 Oscar shortlisted documentary The Loving Story. First-time director Nancy Buirski, who founded the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, and editor Elisabeth Haviland James weave together never-before-seen archival footage shot by photojournalist Grey Villet, old news reports and interviews, and family home movies with new interviews with the Loving children and lawyers Bernard S. Cohen and Philip J. Hirschkop, who were ready to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. One of the many fascinating aspects of the film is that Richard and Mildred had no desire to be trailblazers fighting miscegenation laws; they were just a man and a woman who had fallen in love at first sight and wanted to live happily ever after, in a community that fully accepted their situation. They of course have the perfect last name, because The Loving Story is a story of love and romance as much as it is about an outdated legal system, bigotry, and white supremacy. And it is more relevant than ever, given the new administration that has just taken office. Told in a procedural, chronological format, The Loving Story is also absolutely infuriating, since this all happened not very long ago at all, with many of the protagonists and antagonists still alive — and race still being such a central issue in America. An HBO production that won a prestigious Peabody Award, The Loving Story is having a special Valentine’s Day screening at IFC Center as part of the “Stranger Than Fiction” documentary series and will be followed by a Q&A with Buirski, who is likely to also discuss Jeff Nichols’s Loving, the fictionalized retelling with Joel Edgerton as Richard and an Oscar-nominated Ruth Negga as Mildred that was based on her movie. The STF series continues Tuesday nights through March 28 with such other nonfiction films as David Farrier and Dylan Reeve’s Tickled, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s Brother’s Keeper, and Amanda Micheli’s Vegas Baby.
BAM Howard Gilman Opera House
30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Pl. & St. Felix St.
February 15-19, $24-$80
Cape Town’s Isango Ensemble specializes in adapting Western works with a South African sensibility; since 2000, director Mark Dornford-May and music director Pauline Malefane have presented such classics as A Christmas Carol, The Magic Flute, La bohème, and Aesop’s Fables. The troupe has now teamed up with the Young Vic for A Man of Good Hope, based on Jonny Steinberg’s book about Asad, a young man who becomes a refugee because of the civil war in Mogadishu in the early 1990s. “I felt a whim rising. A man who can break a twig and take me with him to another world, I thought, is a man about whom I ought to write a book,” Steinberg explains in a program note about meeting Asad. The protagonist is played by Ayanda Tikolo, Siposethu Juta, Phielo Makitle, Zoleka Mpotsha, and Luvo Tamba at different stages of his life. Directed by May, with musical direction by Malefane and Mandisi Dyantyis, movement by Lungelo Ngamlana, and lighting by Mannie Manim, the show features music and dance built around the marimba. A Man of Good Hope runs February 15-19; on February 18 at 5:30 ($20), Ethiopian American writer Dinaw Mengestu will join Steinberg and Iranian American writer and moderator Roya Hakakian for the PEN America panel discussion “Reflecting on the Refugee Crisis” at BAM Fisher’s Fishman Space.