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

TICKET ALERT: BACON AND BEER CLASSIC

Bacon and Beer Classic

Bacon and Beer Classic will take the field at Mets’ home stadium on April 25

Citi Field
123-01 Roosevelt Ave.
Saturday, April 25, brunch session 12 noon - 3:00 pm, evening session 7:00 - 10:00, $29-$129
www.baconandbeerclassic.com

Two great tastes that taste great together — bacon and beer — make up the menu at the annual Bacon and Beer Classic, returning to Citi Field on April 25 while the Mets are playing the Yankees up north in the Bronx. More than one hundred craft brews will be available, along with more than fifty bacon-inclusive dishes from local restaurants. There will also be workshops, demonstrations, live music, interactive games, a DJ, and other activities. Among the participating breweries are Broken Bow, Two Roads, Central Waters, Thirsty Dog, Knee Deep, the Radiant Pig, Elysian, River Horse, and Angry Orchard, while bacon delicacies will be served by City Crab, Landhaus, Route 66 Smoke House, Pig Guy NYC, Bamboo Bites, BarBacon, Ribs Within, BacoBurger, Carnal, and others. There are two sessions, one for brunch and one for dinner, with VIP tickets gaining you early admission, as well as access to the warning track and dugouts. If you’re not an imbiber, you can get in for a mere $29 for food and nonalcoholic beverages; otherwise, ticket packages range from $59 to $129. In addition there will be various awards given out by a panel of judges consisting of Liza De Guia, Lisa Fernandes, Derrick Prince, Adam Poch, and David “the Rev” Cancio.

CHURCHILL

CHURCHILL

Ronald Keaton portrays Sir Winston Churchill in one-man show at New World Stages (photo by Jason Epperson)

New World Stages
340 West 50th St. between Eighth & Ninth Aves.
Wednesday - Monday through July 12, $67
churchilltheplay.com
newworldstages.com

In The Audience, now on Broadway at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, Helen Mirren transforms into Queen Elizabeth II, making the crowd gasp as she seems to become Her Royal Highness right before our eyes. In Ronald Keaton’s one-man show, SoloChicago’s production of Churchill at New World Stages, Keaton never quite fully embodies the larger-than-life political figure — who is played in The Audience by Dakin Matthews — and the audience never forgets it is seeing a staged performance, but he still does hit all the right notes as he relates the life of one of the most important figures of the twentieth century. But whereas the text of The Audience is complete fiction, imagined by writer Peter Morgan, in Churchill Keaton, who both adapted and stars in the play, uses the writings and speeches of Sir Winston to give a clear and concise history of the man and his influence on world politics, focusing on the two world wars while including plenty of classic Churchill quips. It’s 1946, and Churchill has arrived in the United States to meet with President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Speaking directly to the audience, Churchill shares the details of critical moments in his life, beginning with his premature birth on November 30, 1874, the son of a British duke and an American woman: “So I am myself a kind of English-speaking union,” he says. “I came miraculously into the world with a certain amount of impatience and a good deal of energy.” Churchill discusses his schooling, his embarrassing lisp and stutter, his relationship with his loving mother and stiff-upper-lipped father (“You want to know how many conversations I had with my father over a lifetime? Maybe five.”), his marriage to Clementine Hozier (“In our first meeting at a social gathering, I took note of her personal grace and beauty. The second meeting convinced me that this was a woman of great character and intelligence, and I fell almost instantly.”), and his joining the military, which changed the course of his future, as he became a war hero, a bestselling author, and a savvy politician with an unrivaled talent for witty repartee and sharp comebacks. (“A female acquaintance of mine, one of those plutocrats who claimed to love the working man —indeed, they love to see him work — said to me, ‘Mr. Churchill, I care for neither your politics nor your mustache.’ I said, ‘Don’t distress yourself, dear lady, you’re not very likely to come in contact with either.’”)

CHURCHILL

“I must be very tough or very lucky. Or both,” Churchill (Ronald Keaton) declares in biographical play (photo by Jason Epperson)

The second act begins as England enters WWII on September 1, 1939, with Churchill becoming first lord of the admiralty (“‘Sir! You’re scuttling the traditions of the Royal Navy!’ ‘Admiral, have you ever considered what the traditions of the Royal Navy really are? I can tell you in three words: rum, sodomy, and the lash!’”) and, on May 10, 1940, prime minister for the first time. (“But at last, I had been given complete authority over the whole scene. I felt as if I were walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been preparation for this hour, this trial.”) Churchill speaks humbly yet proudly of his own vast accomplishments (“I’ve derived continued benefit from criticism in my life and never known any time when I was short of it.”) and fondly of his relationship with FDR. (“Meeting President Roosevelt was like opening your first bottle of champagne. And knowing him was like drinking it. He was the best friend England ever had.”) Director Kurt Johns has Keaton wander rather randomly across Jason Epperson’s somewhat cramped set, which includes an easel where the British Bulldog paints, two chairs, a desk, and a window on which Paul Deziel projects Churchill family photographs, the Union Jack, Churchill canvases, and other images. I attended the show with a Churchill aficionado, someone so enamored with the man that his daughter was even born on Winnie’s birthday, and he gave the show high marks for its historical accuracy and ability to encapsulate Churchill’s life and career in less than two hours (with intermission). I can’t be quite so generous with the staging itself, but Churchill, part of Churchill 2015, a celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the eminent statesman’s death, is still a heartfelt look at an inspiring figure who changed the course of history. (On June 19, Keaton will be at the 92nd St. Y for the special talk “Behind the Scenes of Off-Broadway’s Churchill with Tricia McDermott.)

LA MAISON DU CHOCOLAT TASTING AND GIVEAWAY

La Maison du Chocolat is ready to get chocoholics in the mood

La Maison du Chocolat is ready to get chocoholics in the mood

Who: La Maison du Chocolat boutiques
What: Chocolate and pastry tastings and $60 raffle giveaways
Where: 1018 Madison Ave. at 78th St., 30 Rockefeller Center at 49th St., 63 Wall St., the Plaza Food Hall at One West 58th St., the Shops at Columbus Circle at 10 Columbus Circle
When: Wednesday, April 1, free, 2:00 - 6:00
Why: Just in time for Easter, La Maison du Chocolat — where we did our Valentines Day shopping last month — is hosting an afternoon of free tastings of their chocolate and pastries, at all five Manhattan locations. You can also sign up for a raffle to win a $60 basket of luxury chocolates.

TICKET GIVEAWAY: CLINTON THE MUSICAL

clinton the musical

CLINTON THE MUSICAL
New World Stages
340 West 50 St. between Eighth & Ninth Aves.
Wednesday - Monday, March 25 - September 6 (opens April 9), $75–$95
www.clintonthemusical.com

There’ve been endless books, movies, documentaries, and SNL skits about William Jefferson Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton, so it’s about time there was a musical as well. But given the cast of characters, don’t expect Billary to be making this a campaign stop (if she’s running for president, of course). Paul and Michael Hodge have taken the story of an Arkansas hick and a Chicago-born suburbanite and turned it into Clinton the Musical, starring Tony nominee Kerry Butler as Hillary Clinton, Tom Galantich as WJ Clinton, Duke Lafoon as Billy Clinton, Emmy winner Judy Gold as Eleanor Roosevelt, John Treacy Egan as Newt Gingrich, Veronica Kuehn as Monica Lewinsky, and Kevin Zak as Kenneth Starr. A hit at the 2014 New York Musical Theatre Festival, Clinton the Musical has two actors portray the forty-second president of the United States, splitting the polarizing figure into separate parts, both of which ignite controversy, albeit in different ways. The show is directed and choreographed by Tony nominee Dan Knechtges (Tail! Spin!, Lysistrata Jones, Xanadu), with sets by Tony winner Beowulf Boritt and costumes by Tony nominee David Woolard, so it has quite a pedigree. To find out more, you can follow the show’s rehearsal breaks here.

TICKET GIVEAWAY: Clinton the Musical begins previews March 25 prior to an April 9 opening, and twi-ny has three pairs of tickets to give away for free. Just send your name, daytime phone number, and favorite show about politics to contest@twi-ny.com by Friday, March 27, at 3:00 to be eligible. All entrants must be twenty-one years of age or older; three winners will be selected at random.

SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS

(photo by Ben Arons)

Six characters seek enlightenment at a silent retreat in SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS (photo by Ben Arons)

Ars Nova
511 West 54th St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves.
Monday - Saturday through April 11, $35, 7:00 or 8:00
212-352-3101
arsnovanyc.com

Silence turns out to indeed be golden in Bess Wohl’s charming, inventive Small Mouth Sounds, having its world premiere at Ars Nova. The hundred-minute play takes place at a silent meditation retreat, where six people have come seeking enlightenment, or at least a respite from the pain life has brought them. Jan (Erik Lochtefeld) is a doe-eyed middle-aged man with a soft, kind heart, carrying around with him a picture of a child. Rodney (Babak Tafti) is a yoga practitioner and meditator who knows all the right moves and poses. Alicia (Jessica Almasy) is a chaotic, emotional young woman, perpetually late and overly dramatic. Ned (Brad Heberlee) is a troubled, hapless soul who has experienced more than his fair share of suffering. And Joan (Marcia DeBonis) and Judy (Sakina Jaffrey) are a couple dealing with illness as their love is tested. The six people have come to an unnamed location — the show was inspired by a silent spiritual retreat Wohl attended at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck — for five days of vegan eating, inward searching, and no talking, led by a teacher (Jojo Gonzalez) who turns out to have some problems of his own. “Think of this retreat as a vacation from your habits. Your routines. Yourself,” the unseen teacher says in a slow, choppy disembodied voice heard through a speaker. “It is the best kind. Of vacation. Because after this. You don’t ever have to go back. To who you were.” Over the course of the five days, they all find out a little more about who they are, and they don’t always like what they see.

(photo by Ben Arons)

Silent retreaters discover new ways to look at the world in superb Ars Nova production (photo by Ben Arons)

Set designer Laura Jellinek (The Nether) has transformed Ars Nova into a long, narrow space, with two rows of seats on either side of the stage. At one end are six chairs for the characters, who sit there when listening to the teacher, whose voice comes from the opposite end, echoing through the room. The center, horizontal area serves primarily as the retreaters’ sleeping quarters, with Ned paired with Rodney, Joan with Judy, and Alicia mistakenly situated with Jan, which doesn’t make her happy, although he is serenely unperturbed by it. Director Rachel Chavkin, who delighted audiences with the smash hit Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, which played at Ars Nova in 2012, keeps things much simpler this time around, showing that action speaks louder than words, incorporating silent-movie tropes and clever, recognizable gestures to reveal the characters’ traits, from their failings to their hopes and dreams, from needing a pencil to fighting off bears and mosquitoes. Video projections of nature by Andrew Schneider surround the upper panels of the room, placing everyone in the great outdoors, enhanced by Stowe Nelson’s terrific sound design, from the pitter-patter of rain to the teacher’s not-quite-godlike voice. Lighting designer Mike Inwood rarely lets it get too dark, so the audience is well aware of themselves, almost as if they are also on the retreat and observing such rules as silence and no eating, since any whisper or unwrapping of candy would be seen and heard by everyone. There might not be a lot of dialogue — although there is some, as numerous rules are broken by the students and the teacher — but Wohl (Pretty Filthy) has plenty to say about impermanence, communication, connection, intention, and interdependence as relationships unfold at a calm, dare we say meditative, pace. The title refers to those guttural sounds — grunts, moans, sighs, chuckles — we all make when words won’t suffice, or aren’t allowed. In Small Mouth Sounds, Wohl, Chavkin, and the splendid cast prove that silence can speak volumes.

MACY’S FLOWER SHOW: ART IN BLOOM

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Macy’s Flower Show is dedicated to “Art in Bloom” (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Macy’s Herald Square
151 West 34th St. at Broadway
Daily through Sunday, April 4, free
212-494-4495
macys.com
art in bloom slideshow

Macy’s annual Flower Show is up and running, offering a lovely indoor respite during this cold start to spring. This year’s theme is “Art in Bloom,” with displays dedicated to abstract art, surrealism, impressionism, Pop art, the Renaissance, Art Nouveau, Contemporary, and portraiture. Bouquets of the Day will be designed by Martha Stewart (March 22-24), DeJuan Stroud (March 26-26), Kenji Takenaka (March 27-29), Polux Fleuriste (March 30-31), Olivier Giugni (April 1-2), and Jes Gordon (April 3-4). Among the related special events are a floral seminar with Michael Gaffney on March 27 at 1:00, the Puzzle Art Installation & Collaboration Project on March 28 at 2:00, an H.BLOOM floral seminar on March 30 at 1:00, and a Starbright floral seminar on April 3 at 1:00.

THE NETHER

(photo © Jenny Anderson)

Everyone has something to hide in Jennifer Haley’s gripping futuristic thriller, THE NETHER (photo © Jenny Anderson)

MCC Theater at the Lucille Lortel Theater
121 Christopher St. between Bleecker & Hudson Sts.
Tuesday - Sunday through March 29, $20-$75
212-352-3101
www.thenetherplay.com
www.mcctheater.org

Jennifer Haley’s The Nether is one of the most intellectually stimulating shows of the season, a dark, brilliant journey into a futuristic realm where people can experience “life without consequence.” Sharing the same name as a hellish dimension in the online game Minecraft, The Nether begins in a dank, dungeon-like room where Detective Morris (Merritt Wever) is grilling Sims (Frank Wood), a creepy, well-dressed entrepreneur who has made a fortune creating the Hideaway, an online portal where men can become avatars who do bad things to avatars of young girls. Sims — whose name is a direct reference to the Sims, the immensely popular and groundbreaking virtual reality video game series — is known as Papa in the Hideaway, serving as a kind of father-pimp figure to such creations as nine-year-old Iris (thirteen-year-old Sophia Anne Caruso), his current favorite. Morris is also questioning Doyle (Peter Friedman), a sixty-five-year-old teacher and theoretician who is obsessed with the Hideaway. Meanwhile, a dapper fellow named Woodnut (Ben Rosenfield) has entered the illusional realm, breaking the rules as he explores a relationship with Iris that he knows is wrong. The various subplots come together in an explosive conclusion that is nothing short of mind blowing.

(photo © Jenny Anderson)

Woodnut (Ben Rosenfield) explores his darker side with Iris (Sophia Anne Caruso) in provocative MCC Theater production at the Lucille Lortel (photo © Jenny Anderson)

Winner of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, The Nether is an intensely gripping thriller that takes online gaming and virtual reality to the next level while posing stirring, provocative inquiries into the nature of god, creativity, imagination, and technology, all packed into seventy-five heart-stopping minutes. Emmy nominee Wever (Nurse Jackie, Hater) is outstanding as Morris, a woman with her own secrets who refuses to see the Hideaway as anything but evil, while Tony winner Wood (Side Man, Clybourne Park) plays Sims with just the right touch of sympathetic depth and repellent charm. Rosenfield (Boardwalk Empire, Through a Glass Darkly) is a kind of avatar for the audience, intrigued by what is happening in the Hideaway, frightened of participating yet captivated by the allure, while Friedman (The Open House, The Hatmaker’s Wife) excels as a man who has risked everything to exist in Sims’s world. Most impressive, however, is Caruso (Ruthless! The Musical, Secondhand Lions), who is simply superb in a role that is most likely as difficult to play as it is to watch, walking a very fine line between theatricality and child abuse; she is completely in command of the part, but that doesn’t mean you don’t feel shocked as she interacts with grown men in rather adult ways. Laura Jellinek’s set is a bleak, claustrophobic gray room that opens up inventively to alternate realities bursting with life and bright color. Obie-winning director Anne Kauffman (Smokefall, Belleville) orchestrates it all with finesse as the action moves from a powerful police procedural to a disturbing unreal Eden that celebrates molestation and murder. With The Nether, Haley (Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom, They Call Her Froggy) has written a taut, highly original investigation into how people relate to one another in these fast-changing times. “This communication — the experience of each other — is the root of consciousness,” Doyle says. Such statements get right to the soul of this magical, terrifying show.

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