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

WHITNEY BLOCK PARTY

The Meatpacking District welcomes the Whitney to the neighborhood at all-day block party on May 2 (photo © Nic Lehoux)

The Meatpacking District welcomes the Whitney to the neighborhood at all-day block party on May 2 (photo © Nic Lehoux)

Whitney Museum of American Art
99 Gansevoort St.
Saturday, May 2, free, 11:00 – 8:00
212-570-3600
whitney.org

The Whitney is celebrating the opening of its new home on Gansevoort St. with a block party on May 2, featuring live performances, interactive installations, workshops, and free admission to the museum, where you can check out the inaugural exhibitions “America Is Hard to See” and, on the roof, “Mary Heilman: Sunset.” At the block party, you can take the mic in Trisha Baga’s “Whitney Idol Karaoke,” catch K8 Hardy and Ryan McNamara’s pop-up, site-specific The Poseurs, a Dance, trade your own smile recipes for canned smiles in Nari Ward’s “Sugar Hill Smiles,” get your groove on at My Barbarian’s “Classical Music Dance Party,” make forts, monsters, and other cool things at Friends of the High Line’s “High Line Builders,” learn about the history of the Meatpacking District from local purveyors Jobbagy Meats, help Lize Mogel construct a scale model of New York in “Crowd-Sourced City,” and hang out at Ei Arakawa and Shimon Minamikawa’s “Cyber Café.” Live performances include Gobby in Bed-Stuy Love Affair’s “Gate,” spoken-word DJ Mark Beasley, the Ethyl Eichelberger cover band the Eichelburglers, Jacolby Satterwhite’s “Ein Plein Air: Diamond Princess” with Camp & Street, Tracie Morris with Mr. Jerome Harris and Jemman, and a Tribe Called Red.

INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORE DAY

independent bookstore day

Multiple locations in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan
Saturday, May 2 free
bookstoredaynyc.com

More than two dozen independent bookstores in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens are participating in Independent Bookstore Day on May 2, with signings, readings, lectures, film screenings, art exhibits, children’s activities, giveaways, games, food tastings, discussions, and, in several cases, free beer, to steer you clear of Amazon and B&N. Guitarist Gary Lucas will be performing live at bookbook on Bleecker St. Paul Durham, Matt Myklusch, Michael Northrop, Dianne K. Salerni, and Josh Lieb join together for a Fantastic Middle Grade panel at Books of Wonder. Amy Hest, Chris Raschka, Deborah Heligman, and Cynthia Weill are among a dozen authors and illustrators who will be at Bank Street Book Store. Housing Works will host a Kidlit Game Show emceed by C. Alexander London. Colm Tóibín, Eileen Myles, Joseph O’Neill, DJ Spooky, Said Sayrafiezadeh, and others are among the literati taking part in a marathon Langston Hughes reading at McNally Jackson. Jon Scieszka will lead a Mad Scientist Party at the Community Bookstore, followed by an evening celebration with Paul Auster, William Corbett, and Felix Harr. The powerHouse Arena will launch Luke’s Lobster’s Real Maine Food, with sample treats. And Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman will be team captains in a game of Pictionary at the Astoria Bookshop during this first-ever national Independent Bookstore Day.

WFMU RECORD FAIR

Annual WFMU Record Fair moves into Brooklyn Expo Center this weekend

Annual WFMU Record Fair moves into Brooklyn Expo Center this weekend

Who: Bambi Kino, Olivia Neutron John, Conspiracy of Beards, Tin Sandwich, Daniel Kahn, Danny Kroha, Todd-O-Phonic Todd, the Baseball Project, Michael Shelley, Fool’s Paradise with Rex, Miriam, Billy Jam, and more than 150 record and CD dealers
What: WFMU Record Fair
Where: Brooklyn Expo Center, 79 Franklin St. between Noble & Oak Sts.
When: May 1-3, $7, 4:00 – 7:00 Friday, 10:00 am – 7:00 pm Saturday & Sunday (early admission Friday at 4:00, $25)
Why: Because there’s still nothing like spinning that black circle. In addition to tons of vintage vinyl and CDs for sale from all musical genres, the annual WFMU Record Fair will feature screenings of such cult classics as Francis Ford Coppola’s Dementia 13, Dan Lucal’s Dance of the Clones, Tim Smith’s Sex and Broadcasting (followed by a Q&A with Smith), Christopher Kirkley’s I Sing the Desert Electric, Paul Lovelace and Jessica Wolfson’s Radio Unnameable, Selma Vilhunnen’s Song, Cate Giordano’s Heritage, Olivia Wyatt’s The Pierced Heart & the Machete, and Philippe Garrel’s The Inner Scar.

THE VISIT

(photo by Thom Kaine)

Chita Rivera returns to Broadway with a Tony-nominated performance in Kander and Ebb’s THE VISIT (photo by Thom Kaine)

Lyceum Theatre
149 West 45th St. between Sixth & Seventh Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through September 6, $29 - $149
thevisitmusical.com

On April 28 at the Lyceum Theatre, an enormous ovation greeted Chita Rivera as she took the stage, front and center, from an adoring Broadway crowd. Her character arrived in tow with a coffin, but this was a joyous celebration of life. Rivera most likely is justly lauded every night at this moment, but there was something extra in the air this time, as the eighty-two-year-old actress had been nominated for her tenth Tony Award earlier that day. (She won in 1984 for The Rink and in 2006 for Chita Rivera — A Dancer’s Life.) In John Kander and the late Fred Ebb’s The Visit, Rivera is resplendent as Claire Zachanassian, an oft-widowed billionaire who has returned to her hometown, a rotting European corpse known as Brachen. Dressed in a dazzling white gown, she shines among the gray, dank villagers who have gathered to welcome her in a dilapidated railway station overgrown with tree branches (splendidly designed by Scott Pask). They think she has come back to rescue them from their hell —her former lover, Anton Schell (a fine Roger Rees), has particularly high hopes — but they are sadly mistaken, as she has returned for revenge and justice. It’s too bad that the rest of this musical, really more of a play with songs, does not do her similar justice. “Justice, madam?” Mayor Peter Dummermut (David Garrison) asks. “I wish to buy justice,” Claire says. “But justice cannot be bought, madam,” the mayor points out. “Everything can be bought,” Claire responds, then proves it.

(photo by Joan Marcus)

Ghostly lovers from the past (John Riddle and Michelle Veintimilla) hover over the dastardly dealings in THE VISIT (photo by Joan Marcus)

Adapted by Tony winner Terrence McNally (It’s Only a Play, Master Class) from the 1956 play by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, The Visit, featuring music by Kander and lyrics by Ebb, the masterminds behind Cabaret and Chicago, has had a long journey to Broadway, gestating since 2001, always with Rivera The Mystery of Edwin Drood, West Side Story) as the star. For its Great White Way debut, director John Doyle (Sweeney Todd, Company) has assembled quality parts, but he never fully commits to any of the show’s numerous concepts, resulting in a baffling tale that is more like an overextended short story than a one-hundred-minute musical. When Claire explains that several of her body parts are artificial, Anton asks, “Is there anything left that’s real?” Touching her heart, Claire replies, “Here, Anton, as you shall see.” But The Visit doesn’t have an emotional core, instead ranging among ideas that are left hanging, remaining unexplained. As the townsfolk, including police chief Otto Hahnke (Aaron Ramey), schoolmaster Frederich Kuhn (Jason Danieley), hospital head Hans Nusselin (Timothy Shew), Father Josef (Rick Holmes), and Anton’s wife, Matilde (Mary Beth Peil), and children, Karl (George Abud) and Ottilie (Elena Shaddow), consider the future of Brachen, the past is ever-present, in the ghostly form of young lovers Anton (John Riddle) and Claire (Michelle Veintimilla), who are always onstage, but they go from an intriguing and beautiful motif to an overused device. Claire is accompanied by her strange butler (Tom Nelis) and a pair of oddly named and made-up blind eunuchs, Jacob Chicken (Chris Newcomer) and Louis Perch (Matthew Deming), whose existence and purpose don’t make complete sense. The only color comes from bold splashes of yellow; although a dance number choreographed by Graciela Daniele (Ragtime, The Rink), in which the characters, wearing bright yellow shoes, sit on Claire’s luggage, moving their legs and feet, is charming and funny, the tincture comes out of nowhere, color for color’s sake; if it is supposed to represent the town’s cowardice, it doesn’t come off that way. It’s the staging that ultimately lets down a bravura performance by Rivera, a quality book by McNally, and a game cast, left to wander through Doyle’s perplexing choices much as the characters wander through the remains of a once-prosperous town, making this Visit not worth a visit.

GRATEFUL DEAD MEET-UP AT THE MOVIES 2015

grateful dead meet up

Who: The Grateful Dead
What: Fifth annual “Grateful Dead Meet-Up at the Movies”
Where: AMC Empire 25, AMC Loews Kips Bay 15, Regal Union Square Stadium 14
When: Monday, May 4, $12.50, 7:00
Why: Fathom Events’ “Classic Music Series” continues with a screening of the the Grateful Dead’s never-before-shown July 19, 1989, concert at Alpine Valley in Wisconsin. For the finale of a three-night stand, Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Brent Mydland, and Bob Weir played a two hour and fifty-minute set that included such gems as “Sugaree,” “Mexicali Blues,” “Deal,” “Box of Rain,” “The Wheel,” and our personal favorite, “Terrapin Station.” In past years, the cinema series screened 4/21/72 in Bremen, 8/27/72 in Oregon, and 7/18/89 at Alpine Valley.

3D IN THE 21st CENTURY: CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS

Werner Herzog goes spelunking in 3D for 2010 documentary, CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS

CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS (Werner Herzog, 2010)
BAMcinématek, BAM Rose Cinemas
30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Pl. & St. Felix St.
Sunday, May 3, 4:00 & 8:30
Series runs May 1-17
718-636-4100
www.bam.org
www.wernerherzog.com

An adventurer as much as a filmmaker, German director Werner Herzog has headed into the Amazon in Fitzcarraldo (1982), burning Kuwaiti oil fields in Lessons of Darkness (1992), and Antarctica in Encounters at the End of the World (2008). In his 2010 documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, he goes where few have ever gone before. In December 1994, speleologists Jean-Marie Chauvet, Éliette Brunel, and Christian Hillaire discovered the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave in France, a vast series of chambers filled with remarkable paintings and engravings as well as animal bones, including the skulls of the extinct cave bear. The works were painted onto and carved into the walls, not limited to flat surfaces but around formations that jut out into the cavern. Dating back more than thirty thousand years, they are the oldest cave paintings ever found, well preserved through crystallization over the centuries and now by the intense and careful protection of the French government. Only a handful of scientists have been given access to the cave, until last spring, when Herzog, who has been entranced by cave paintings since he was twelve years old, was allowed to bring in a shoestring crew using specially devised equipment to film the space over the course of six four-hour sessions. The four-person crew — including Herzog manning the lights and his longtime cinematographer, Peter Zeitlinger, behind the 3D camera — were not allowed to touch anything and had to stay on a narrow metal walkway that winds through the cave. They were accompanied by a team of specialists on the rare public journey: handprint expert Dominique Baffier, cave bear researcher Michel Philippe, the husband and wife team of Gilles Tosello and Carole Fritz, who map out the social connection between art and archaeology, Jean Clottes, the former director of the Chauvet Cave Research Project, and current director Jean-Michel Geneste.

In true Herzog style, he also speaks with a master perfumer and two prehistoric flute archaeologists. Herzog’s decision to use 3D — for what he says will be the only time in his career — was a stroke of genius, allowing viewers to feel like they’re walking through the cave with him, nearly able to reach out and touch the remarkable drawings, engravings, and skeletons. Herzog’s narration does get too dreamy at times, veering off on philosophical tangents before he adds a cool but silly coda, but, as always, he adds plenty of his trademark humor and charm too. Cave of Forgotten Dreams is screening May 3 at 4:00 & 8:30 with Ikuo Nakamura’s 2014 eleven-minute short, Aurora Borealis, as part of the BAMcinématek series “3D in the 21st Century,” consisting of nineteen programs of single films and double features, all shot in 3D. The festival also includes Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity with Trisha Baga’s Other Gravity, Jon M. Chu’s Justin Bieber: Never Say Never with Nadia Ranocchi and David Zamagni’s Joule, Jeff Tremaine’s Jackass 3D with Ben Coonley’s 3D Trick Pony, Alexandre Aja’s Piranha 3D with Yoshi Sodeoka’s Psychedelic Death Vomit (Slight Return), and Jean-Luc Godard’s Goodbye to Language with Kerry Laitala’s Chromatic Frenzy.

IRIS

(photo courtesy Magnolia Pictures)

Iris Apfel shows off her unique and influential fashion sense in Albert Maysles documentary (photo courtesy Magnolia Pictures)

IRIS (Albert Maysles, 2014)
Film Forum, 209 West Houston St., 212-727-8110
Lincoln Plaza Cinema, 1886 Broadway between 62nd & 63rd Sts., 212-757-2280
Opens Wednesday, April 29
www.magpictures.com
mayslesfilms.com

“I like individuality,” self-described “geriatric starlet” and nonagenarian fashion doyenne Iris Apfel says at the beginning of octogenarian Albert Maysles’s penultimate film, Iris. “It’s so lost these days. There’s so much sameness. Everything is homogenized. I hate it. Whatever.” Iris celebrates that individuality, not only Apfel’s, who at ninety-three is still active in the fashion world, but Maysles’s, who passed away in March at the age of eighty-eight, leaving behind a legendary legacy that changed the face of documentary cinema, including such classics as Salesman, Grey Gardens, and Gimme Shelter. Throughout the film, Apfel speaks directly to Maysles, who ends up on camera several times, breaking that once-impenetrable fourth wall that he, his brother, David, and their partner, Charlotte Zwerin, helped tear down years ago. Maysles spent four years filming the Queens-born Apfel as she shared her lovely story, growing from an interior designer and textile-business owner to a world-renowned fashion collector, tastemaker, and rule breaker, accompanied all along the way by her husband of more than sixty-six years, Carl. Maysles shows Iris, in her trademark enormous circular-framed glasses and unique, colorful ensembles that mix designer clothing with a healthy dose of inexpensive accessories, as she bargains at a cheap local store, advises women at a special Loehmann’s event, prepares for her 2005 show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, hawks her jewelry line on the Home Shopping Network, works on a window display at Bergdorf Goodman, and talks fashion with Martha Stewart, Tavi Gevinson, and others. Maysles interviews such designers as Alexis Bittar, Duro Olowu, Naeem Khan, and Dries van Noten, Met curator Harold Koda, Architectural Digest editor in chief Margaret Russell, and J. Crew head Jenna Lyons, who have only the most kind and generous things to say about the always positive Apfel, who has a genuine love of life. “It’s better to be happy than well dressed,” she tells friend and photographer Bruce Weber.

(photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

Nonagenarian Iris Apfel and octogenarian Albert Maysles display a love of life in IRIS (photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

Maysles also explores the Apfels’ inspiring relationship, filled with humor, a love of collecting knickknacks and tchotchkes (strewn about their cluttered apartment), and an infectious yen for trying anything and everything that life has to offer. The film concludes with Carl’s one-hundredth birthday party. Early on, Iris tells a story about one of her first jobs, toiling for Frieda Loehmann in Brooklyn. “One day she called me over and she said, ‘Young lady, I’ve been watching you.’ She said, ‘You’re not pretty, and you’ll never be pretty, but it doesn’t matter. You have something much better. You have style.’” Iris indeed has style, as this wonderful documentary extols, a marvelous tribute both to her and Carl as well as Albert Maysles. Who needs pretty when something this beautiful is what emerges? Iris opens April 29 at Lincoln Plaza and Film Forum, where it will be preceded by Vivian Ostrovsky’s fashion short, Losing the Thread. Producers Laura Coxson and Rebekah Maysles, one of Albert’s children, will be at Film Forum for the 6:20 show on April 29, while Iris herself will participate in a Q&A following the 6:20 screening on May 1 and will then introduce the 8:20 show.

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