Throughout their debut album, The Sun as It Comes (Ursa Major, April 2013), L.A.-based quintet the Lonely Wild sing of beating hearts and drums as people battle to survive economic, political, and personal crises amid fire and flames. “You can’t ignore the sound of one drum / when it’s played by hands of millions,” founder and lyricist Andrew Carroll and Jessi Williams proclaim on the opening title track. Featuring members from California, Indiana, Missouri, and other locales, the Lonely Wild takes on matters of individual and group conscience on the record, the follow-up to their 2011 debut EP, Dead End. The title song was inspired by the Arab Spring, while “Banks and Ballrooms” was influenced by investigative journalist Matt Taibbi’s Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History. “You’ve done no wrong / You should be mad / This ain’t the good life / that you worked to have,” Carroll sings on the tune. Most of The Sun as It Comes is set in a highly cinematic Western landscape that ranges from romantic ballads (“Over the Hill”) to horn-laden controlled chaos (“Everything You Need”) to the anthemic, nearly postapocalyptic “Buried in the Murder,” which ends with screaming vocals and wailing guitars. Carroll, Williams, lead guitarist Andrew Schneider, bassist Ryan Ross, and drummer Dave Farina will be at Mercury Lounge May 16 with Ravens & Chimes and the Lonelyhearts and at Union Hall May 17 with Yellow Red Sparks and the Lonelyhearts. In addition to songs from their EP and LP, perhaps you’ll get a bit of their cool mash-up of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” and Pink Floyd’s “Money.”
The Public Theater, LuEsther Hall
425 Lafayette St. by Astor Pl.
Extended through June 30, $80.50 - $95.50
“I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be great if — as this piece would be principally composed of clubby dance music — one could experience it in a club setting?” David Byrne asked upon the release of his 2010 two-disc concept album about Imelda Marcos, Here Lies Love, a collaboration with Fatboy Slim featuring vocal contributions from Tori Amos, Steve Earle, Martha Wainwright, Natalie Merchant, Florence Welch, Cyndi Lauper, Nellie McKay, and others. “Could one bring a ‘story’ and a kind of theater to the disco? Was that possible? If so, wouldn’t that be amazing!” And amazing it is, to put it lightly. Byrne has turned Here Lies Love into a spectacular, must-see event, an immersive, endlessly creative theatrical experience that has been extended at the Public through June 30. Scenic designer David Korins has transformed LuEsther Hall into a rockin’ dance club where the audience is encouraged to shake it to hard-thumping tunes spun by a DJ (Kelvin Moon Loh) as they enter the space, which has stages at either end and a cross-shaped platform at the center. (The majority of the crowd moves about on the floor, with a smaller contingent sitting in chairs in the balcony, watching from above.) For the next ninety minutes, Byrne (concept, lyrics, music), Fatboy Slim (music), choreographer Annie-B Parson, and go-to director Alex Timbers (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Peter and the Starcatcher, the upcoming Shakespeare in the Park production of Love’s Labour’s Lost) tell the story of Imelda Marcos (Ruthie Ann Miles), from her younger days as a poor villager in Tacloban with her best friend, Estrella (Melody Butiu), to her romance with politician Ninoy Aquino (Conrad Ricamora), marriage to eventual Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos (Jose Llana), and ever-expanding wealth and power.
The nonstop action takes place on a constantly changing set rearranged by a crack crew as the lead actors, as well as a talented ensemble cast (each of whom is worthy of mention: Renée Albulario, Natalie Cortez, Debralee Daco, Joshua Dela Cruz, Jeigh Madjus, Maria-Christina Oliveras, Trevor Salter, and Janelle Velasquez) that goes through numerous costumes (designed by Clint Ramos), pop up all over the theater, march up and down the sides, and walk through the crowd. Peter Nigrini’s projections range from archival news footage to live shots of reporters interviewing the main characters, with the audience right in the middle of it all as if they are one with the Filipino populace as the People Power Revolution approaches. Byrne’s lyrics are sharp and insightful, never proselytizing or judgmental, highlighted by such numbers as “The Rose of Tacloban,” “Eleven Days,” “Order 1081,” and the title song, tracing the political history of the Philippines in the twentieth century as seen through the eyes of a fascinating woman who didn’t just collect expensive shoes. Here Lies Love is a staggering achievement, an engrossing and involving extravaganza of cutting-edge theater at its finest.
OLD DOG (LAO GOU/KHYI RGAN) (Pema Tseden, 2011)
MoMA Film, Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Series runs through June 1
Tickets: $12, in person only, may be applied to museum admission within thirty days, same-day screenings free with museum admission, available at Film and Media Desk
Pema Tseden’s Old Dog is a beautifully told, slowly paced meditation on Buddhism’s four Noble Truths — “Life means suffering”; The origin of suffering is attachment”; “The cessation of suffering is attainable”; and “There is a path to the cessation of suffering” — that ends with a shocking, manipulative finale that nearly destroys everything that came before it. In order to get a little money and to save the family’s sheep-herding dog from being stolen, Gonpo (Drolma Kyab) sells their Tibetan nomad mastiff to Lao Wang (Yanbum Gyal), a dealer who resells the prized breed to stores in China, where they’re used for protection. When Gonpa’s father (Lochey) finds out what his son has done, he goes back to Lao Wang and demands the return of the dog he’s taken care of for thirteen years. “I’d sell myself before the dog,” he tells his son. And so begins a gentle tale of parents and children, set in a modern-day Tibet that is ruled by China’s heavy hand. Gonpa’s father doesn’t understand why his son, a lazy man who rides around on a motorized bike and never seems to do much of anything, doesn’t yet have any children of his own, so he pays for Gonpa and his wife Rikso, (Tamdrin Tso), to go to the doctor to see what’s wrong. Meanwhile, the old man keeps a close watch on his dog, wary that Lao Wang will to try to steal it again. Writer-director Pema Tseden (The Silent Holy Stones, The Search) explores such themes as materialism, family, and attachment in a lovely little film that sadly is nearly ruined by its extreme final scene. Old Dog is screening at MoMA May 15-20 as part of “Chinese Realities/Documentary Visions,” with Tseden taking part in a discussion with Asia Society film curator La Frances Hui after the 8:00 show on May 16 and with Hui and Chris Berry following the 7:00 show on May 18. The series continues through June 1 with such other films as Zhang Yuan’s Mama, Zhang Yimou’s The Story of Qiu Ju, Jia Zhangke’s 24 City, and Ai Weiwei’s Disturbing the Peace.
Back in 1981-82, Eric Burdon, who made his name as lead singer of the Animals in the 1960s and later with War, starred in Christel Buschmann’s Comeback and released an accompanying soundtrack album. Though the British rocker was only forty-one at the time, the movie was somewhat of a quiet comeback for him as well as the semiautobiographical character he plays. More than thirty years later, however, Burdon is in the midst of a much bigger revival. In the last fifteen months, the vocalist behind such classic songs as “It’s My Life,” “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” “Spill the Wine,” “When I Was Young,” and “Sky Pilot” joined Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band onstage at SXSW, recorded a stellar four-track blues EP with Cincinnati band the Greenhornes (produced by Brendan Benson), underwent back surgery, signed a book deal for his third memoir, teamed up with Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis for a new version of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” for the True Blood soundtrack, guested for an entire night on the Late Show with David Letterman, and released a strong solo album, ’Til Your River Runs Dry (ABKCO, January 2013). “The year I’ve had since 2012 SXSW would be the envy of any young band starting out,” Burdon wrote on his Facebook page in March. “In fact, even if I were still in my twenties, I would consider it the best year of my career. To think that it happened to me at the age of seventy-one is a dream come true.” Burdon will be at the Highline Ballroom May 15-16 for a pair of intimate shows with the current lineup of the Animals, featuring guitarists Eric McFadden and Billy Watts, keyboardists Red Young and Teresa James, bassist Terry Wilson, percussionist Wally Ingram, and drummer Tony Braunagel [ed. note: Many thanks to Duke for correcting the lineup], playing songs from throughout his career, including tracks from the new album, which examines dealing with inner demons (“Devil and Jesus”), the legacy of Bo Diddley (“Bo Diddley Special,” “Before You Accuse Me”), honoring antiwar protestors (Memorial Day”), and the need for clean water (“River Is Rising,” “Water”).
Ethel Barrymore Theatre
243 West 47th St. between Broadway & Eighth Ave.
Thursday - Tuesday through July 14, $69.50 - $145
As audience members arrive at the Barrymore Theatre to see the Scottish Play, they’re greeted by a warning on the outside doors: “The producers ask that you please refrain from speaking the name of the play you are about to see while inside these walls.” Once this fascinating, intense reimagination of William Shakespeare’s 1606 tale of bloodlust and blind ambition gets under way and star Alan Cumming says the name of the eponymous character out loud, there’s an audible hush in the theater, as if he’s broken the cardinal rule. For this is no ordinary Macbeth, and Cumming is no ordinary lead actor. Instead, he plays a deeply troubled man locked up in an asylum after some kind of tragic event. A doctor (Jenny Sterlin) and an orderly (Brendan Titley) set him up in his room and watch him carefully through a door and a window as he deals with his psychological crisis by getting lost inside Macbeth, speaking only lines from the play as guilt and fear envelop him. Directors John Tiffany (Once, Black Watch) and Andrew Goldberg (The Bomb-itty of Errors, Betwixt) have Cumming examine himself in a mirror, sit proudly on a chair like it’s a throne, huddle meekly under a stairway, and take a bath as he goes from Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Banquo, and Macduff to the three witches, King Duncan, Fleance, and Malcolm. The stark, surreal goings-on are enhanced by Ian William Galloway’s surveillance cameras and video monitors and Fergus O’Hare’s powerful sound design, as loud noises echo through the patient’s head and across the theater. Cumming gives a tour-de-force performance as the man coming undone in one hundred breathtaking minutes, mixing in humor with tragedy as his breakdown continues. “There’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face,” Duncan says in the first act. In this bold, daring take on the Bard’s classic story, there is plenty of art in the destruction of one mind’s haunted memory.
“Some things stay private. Or as Two-Mom always told me, ‘Keep a little mystery about yourself,’” tennis superstar Jimmy Connors writes in his new book, The Outsider: A Memoir (Harper, May 14, 2013, $28.99). The Illinois-born James Scott Connors, winner of eight Grand Slam titles, including five U.S. Open championships, dishes about his life and career, which took off in the 1970s and continued into the early ’80s when playing classic matches against such rivals as Arthur Ashe, Björn Borg, Ilie Năstase, John McEnroe, Rod Laver, and Ivan Lendl. He was engaged to Chris Evert before marrying Playboy centerfold and 1977 Playmate of the Year Patti McGuire; the couple live together in Santa Barbara and have two children. Never one to clam up, Connors also shares details of his battles with OCD, dyslexia, and gambling in the memoir. He’ll be at the Citigroup Center B&N on May 14 at 12:30, signing copies of The Outsider — and probably speaking a little of his mind as well.
Stephen Sondheim Theatre
124 West 43rd St. between Sixth & Seventh Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through September 1, $42 - $142
For its sixtieth anniversary, Horton Foote’s simply lovely The Trip to Bountiful, about an elderly woman’s search for home, has found its own home again on Broadway for the first time since 1953. Cicely Tyson, making her return to the Great White Way after a thirty-year absence, is unforgettably sweet as Carrie Watts, a dream role previously played by Lillian Gish in the original Broadway production, Lois Smith in a 2005 off-Broadway revival, and, most famously, by an Oscar-winning Geraldine Page in Peter Masterson’s 1985 film. Carrie is tired of living in Houston with her henpecked son, Ludie (Cuba Gooding Jr.), and his demanding wife, Jessie Mae (Vanessa Williams). While Carrie sits in her rocking chair reading a book, Jessie Mae complains about not receiving her mother-in-law’s pension check, and Ludie continually allows her to walk all over him and his mother. Fed up with the situation, Carrie decides to take off one day, boarding a bus back to her hometown, Bountiful, which she is desperate to see one last time before she dies. In the bus station, she is befriended by Thelma (Condola Rashad), a young woman who finds Carrie to be charming, even taking pleasure when the older woman starts singing hymns, something that drives Jessie Mae crazy. But little things keep getting in Carrie’s way, jeopardizing her journey. Tyson is delightful as Carrie, whether shuffling in and out of the kitchen of Jeff Cowie’s cramped Houston set or telling station agent Roy (Arthur French) and the sheriff (Tom Wopat) about her youth in Bountiful. Williams is excellent as the domineering daughter-in-law, bossing around her wimp of a husband. Directed by Michael Wilson (Gore Vidal’s The Best Man, Talley’s Folly) with an easy-flowing grace, The Trip to Bountiful has indeed made a bountiful return trip to Broadway.