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

THEATER OF WAR: A DRAMATIC READING OF SCENES FROM SOPHOCLES’ PHILOCTETES

theater of war

Who: Zach Grenier, Kathryn Erbe, Reg E. Cathey
What:Free performance of scenes from ancient Greek play, followed by Q&A
Where: Allison & Howard Lutnick Theater, Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, Pier 86, West Forty-Sixth St. & Twelfth Ave.
When: Sunday, May 28, free with RSVP, 7:00
Why: In conjunction with Fleet Week, Theater of War is presenting a dramatic reading of scenes from Sophocles’ Philoctetes, translated, directed, and facilitated by Brooklyn-based artistic director Bryan Doerries, author of The Theater of War: What Ancient Greek Tragedies Can Teach Us Today. The event, part of a project that “is designed to promote understanding, compassion, and positive action,” features Tony nominee Zach Grenier (The Good Wife, 33 Variations), Tony nominee Kathryn Erbe (Law & Order: Criminal Intent, The Speed of Darkness), and Emmy winner Reg E. Cathey (The Wire, House of Cards). The dramatic reading will be followed by a Q&A with community panelists.

THE LUCKY ONE

The Lucky One (photo by Richard Termine)

Brothers Gerald (Robert David Grant) and Bob (Ari Brand) face off against each other in A. A. Milne’s The Lucky One (photo by Richard Termine)

The Mint Theater
The Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row
410 West 42nd St. between Ninth & Tenth Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through July 2, $65
minttheater.org

For his latest theatrical excavation, Jonathan Bank and his expert drama archaeologists at the Mint have resurrected Winnie-the-Pooh creator Alan Alexander (A. A.) Milne’s The Lucky One, presenting the first New York revival of the 1922 Broadway play at the Beckett Theatre through July 2. “The Lucky One was doomed from the start with a name like that,” Milne wrote in the introduction to a published volume of five of his plays written in 1916–17. “I see no hope of its being produced. But if any critic wishes to endear himself to me (though I don’t see why he should) he will agree with me that it is the best play of the five.” In 2004, the Mint brought back two other Milne works, Mr. Pim Passes By and The Truth About Blayds, and now is staging The Lucky One, which Milne wrote in 1917 while serving in WWI. It’s a slight but pleasurable tale of upper-class Edwardian desire and doom, featuring a compelling central plot but lacking any bigger scope. The first and third acts are set in the country home of Sir James Farringdon (Wynn Harmon) and his wife, Lady Farringdon (Deanne Lorette), where the golf-obsessed Tommy Todd (Andrew Fallaize) is bragging about a hole-in-one to dapper family friend Henry Wentworth (Michael Frederic). The Farringdons’ virtually perfect younger son, the tall, blond Gerald (Robert David Grant), handsome well spoken, and well placed in the Foreign Office, has just gotten engaged to the beautiful and charming Pamela Carey (Paton Ashbrook). But not everyone thinks he’s the bee’s knees. “The trouble with Gerald, Mr. Wentworth, is that he goes about expecting everybody to love him. The result is that they nearly all do,” says Gerald’s elderly spinster Great-Aunt Harriet, aka Aunt Tabitha. “However, he can’t get round me.” Miss Farringdon prefers Gerald’s older brother, “poor old Bob” (Ari Brand), a dark-haired, dour young man who regrets having been sent into the big bad city by his parents to work on the Stock Exchange. Bob is sore at Gerald, as Pamela was Bob’s girlfriend before he brought her home and introduced her to his brother. Bob is also embarrassed that he has to ask Gerald for help with a serious business problem; Bob’s partner has absconded with ill-gotten money and left him facing possible prosecution.

The Lucky One (photo by Richard Termine)

The Farringdons and friends face a crisis in Mint revival of A. A. Milne’s The Lucky One (photo by Richard Termine)

The middle act takes place in a Dover Street hotel in London, where the family discusses Bob’s situation. “I don’t want to be unfair to Bob; I don’t think that any son of mine would do a dishonourable action,” Sir James says, “but the Law is the Law, and if the Law sends Bob to prison I can’t help feeling the disgrace of it.” When Bob arrives, he has some terse words for his brother. “You could have saved me from this, and you wouldn’t help me,” he sternly tells Gerald. But soon there’s more than that coming between the siblings. One of the highlights of nearly every Mint production is the set, which is often deserving of its own applause (as well as oohs and aahs). In this case, Vicki R. Davis’s design is, like the play, rather pleasant but nothing more, an elegant main room with a few sofas and chairs, doors in the back leading outside, and a long, high two-sided staircase rising across the stage; at the top landing is a large photograph of Bob and Gerald as boys, a constant reminder of a more innocent time. The cast, which also includes Mia Hutchinson-Shaw as Letty Herbert, who provides comic relief with her bestie, Tommy, and Peggy J. Scott as Mason, the family’s longtime nurse and servant, is excellent — Grant (Merchants of Love, Clever Little Lies) is especially charming in his Mint debut — and Mint associate director Jesse Marchese (The Fatal Weakness, I Am a Camera) provides solid direction, particularly in the key scenes involving Bob, Gerald, and Pamela. But there’s not a whole lot of meat to the play, not enough for audiences to chew on. Milne rarely ventures past the well-groomed surface of the landed gentry and their actions. It all makes for a pleasant theatrical experience, but you’ll leave the Beckett wanting a little more — perhaps a few episodes of Downton Abbey.

DANCING IN THE STREET: La MaMa BLOCK PARTY

block party

La MaMa hosts multidisciplinary block party on May 20

La MaMa
East Fourth St. between Bowery & Second Ave.
Saturday, May 20
lamama.org/block_party

La Mama will be celebrating its fifty-fifth season on May 20 with its annual block party, held in conjunction with the twelfth La MaMa Moves! Dance Festival. “Dancing in the Street” takes place from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm on East Fourth St. between Bowery and Second Ave., also known as Ellen Stewart Way, named after La MaMa’s beloved founder, who passed away in 2011 at the age of ninety-one. The afternoon will feature free performances and workshops with Al Son Son Tablao Flamenco, Alexandra Amirov, Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company, the Blue Bus Project, Brooklyn United Marching Band, DJ Todd Jones, East Village Dance Project, Janice Rosario, Kinding Sindaw, Kinesis Dance Project, Kinetic Architecture Dance Theater, Lei Making, Hula, Malcolm-x Betts, Pua Ali’I Illima O Nuioka, Reggie ‘Regg Roc’ Gray and the D.R.E.A.M. Ring, Reyna Alcala, Rod Rodgers Youth Ensemble, Company, Rude Mechanical Orchestra, Stefanie Batten Bland, Silver Cloud Singers, Thurgood Marshall Academy’s Step Team, White Wave Young Soon Kim Dance Company, and Yoshiko Chuma. Food and drink will be available from La Contrada, Proto’s Pizza, the Bean, Express Thali, Sobaya, Hasaki, Otafuku, Robataya, Harlem Seafood Soul, Miscelanea, the 4th St Co-op, and Obsessive Chocolate Disorder. There will also be video montages running in the lobby of the theater highlighting the campaign for creative activism (#HereToDance). Attendees are encouraged to bring plastic bags, which Maura Nguyen Donohue will collect and incorporate into her Tides Project: Drowning Planet immersive, interactive installation.

AFTERIMAGE

Afterimage

Władysław Strzemiński (Bogusław Linda) looks out on a changing Poland in Andrzej Wajda’s film film, Afterimage

AFTERIMAGE (POWIDOKI) (Andrzej Wajda, 2016)
Lincoln Plaza Cinema
1886 Broadway at 63rd St.
Opens Friday, May 19
212-757-2280
www.lincolnplazacinema.com
www.filmmovement.com

In his final film, Polish master Andrzej Wajda makes a grand statement about the importance of art and its place in society. Afterimage, which was the opening-night selection of the thirteenth New York Polish Film Festival earlier this month, is based on a true story while also serving as a stern warning. Bogusław Linda, who has previously appeared in Wajda’s Man of Iron and Danton, gives a towering performance as real-life Polish avant-garde artist Władysław Strzemiński, a one-armed, one-legged painter considered one of the greatest Polish artists and theoreticians of the twentieth century but whose legacy was destroyed during the rise of Stalinism and social realism. The film begins with a bright, gleeful scene in which Professor Strzemiński and his students roll around a lush green field, smiling and laughing and loving life. Hanna (Zofia Wichłacz) arrives, wanting to study with the professor as well. “The image has to be what you absorb from this,” he tells her, pointing at the beautiful landscape while his students listen with rapt attention. “When we gaze at an object, we get its reflection in our eye. When we stop looking at it and move our gaze elsewhere, an afterimage of the object remains in the eye — a trace of the object with the same shape but the opposite color. An afterimage. Afterimages are the colors, the inside of the eye which looks at an object. Because a person really only sees what he is aware of.” He then gazes out with a big grin and closes his eyes — and Wajda cuts to him in his apartment in 1948, with the Polish United Workers’ Party now in charge; cinematographer Paweł Edelman switches to a very different color scheme, primarily dank grays save for the pervasive red of the Communist party. Virtually day by day, Strzemiński has his ability to make art and to teach stripped away a little at a time as the party enforces a strict code of what is permitted and what is not under its regime. “The purpose of art is to improve its truth on reality,” Strzemiński explains, and he has to face a series of disturbing new truths himself, especially when his young daughter, Nika (Bronislawa Zamachowska), whose mother is famous sculptor Katarzyna Kobro (Aleksandra Justa), starts falling in line with Communist ideals.

Andrzej Wajda directs Bronislawa Zamachowska on the set of Afterimage (photo © Akson Studio/Anna Włoch)

Andrzej Wajda directs Bronislawa Zamachowska on the set of Afterimage (photo © Akson Studio/Anna Włoch)

The film, written by Andrzej Mularczyk based on an idea by Wajda (The Maids of Wilko, The Promised Land), is a fitting finale for the Polish auteur, who won such prestigious prizes as the Palme d’Or, an honorary Golden Bear, and an honorary Academy Award before passing away in October at the age of ninety, following a sixty-five-year career. (In addition, four of his works were nominated for Best Foreign Language Film Oscars.) Afterimage might take place between 1948 and 1952, but it is frighteningly relevant today with so many countries around the world under dictatorships and the value of art and arts education in schools facing scrutiny even here in the United States. Much of the film has an elegiac tone, including the score, which features the music of the late Polish composer Andrzej Panufnik. Linda is brilliant as Strzemiński, who is almost always deep in thought, finding it hard to believe the lengths the party will go to in order to silence artists, including his eager students and his good friend, poet Julian Przyboś. The disheartened stares he makes while watching Nika become part of the problem instead of the solution are intensely moving. Rising Polish star Wichłacz (Warsaw 44) gives a touching performance as Hania, the new student who wants to fight the authorities and is determined to help Professor Strzemiński finish his master opus, The Theory of Vision, before everything is taken away from him. Even though the film shows Wajda at the top of his game, it might not be a stretch to suggest that the aging director identified with Strzemiński, a man who didn’t let the loss of two limbs prevent him from creating art, just as Wajda, approaching ninety at the time, didn’t let anything stop him as well; he joined up with the Polish resistance in 1942, trained to be a painter and then a filmmaker after the war, and was a major supporter of Lech Wałęsa’s Solidarity movement in the 1980s, ultimately making the film Wałęsa: Man of Hope. In the end, both Wajda and Strzemiński are inspiring figures whose works seal their legacies, from the former’s many films to the latter’s paintings and theories as well as his revolutionary Neoplastic Room, which was reconstructed in 1960 at the Muzeum Sztuki w Łodzi. “Everyone sees differently,” Professor Strzemiński says in the film, which is likely to leave a long-lasting afterimage on those who watch it.

SHRED FEST 2017

(photo courtesy AARP New York)

AARP teamed up with the New York State attorney general’s office at last year’s ninth annual Shred Fest (photo courtesy AARP New York)

Multiple locations in all five boroughs
Saturday, May 20, and Sunday, May 21, free, 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
www1.nyc.gov

No, this is not a wild and crazy guitar festival. Now that tax season is over and spring is upon us, it’s time to get rid of that annoying paperwork you no longer need. But with identity theft such a real problem, you might just want to take advantage of New York City’s tenth annual Shred Fest, a two-day public elimination of bank statements, pay stubs, credit card applications, and anything else that contains vital personal information. On Saturday, May 20, there will be shredders strutting their stuff from ten in the morning till about four in the afternoon (or until they are filled, which is likely to be earlier) at Franz Sigel Park in the Bronx, Bensonhurst Park and Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn, St. Nicholas Park in Manhattan, Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk and South Beach on Staten Island. On Sunday you’ll have to head to Triangle Plaza in Co-op City in the Bronx, Prospect Park in Brooklyn, Union Square Park in Manhattan, and the Springfield Gardens Stop & Shop Plaza Shopping Center in Queens. This is a whole lot more satisfying and exciting than merely ripping paper up and throwing it down the garbage chute in your apartment building, so we’ll see you there; just don’t show up too late.

TERRY ZWIGOFF: ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL

Art School Confidential</em is part of Metrograph tribute to Terry Zwigoff

Art School Confidential is part of Metrograph tribute to Terry Zwigoff

ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL (Terry Zwigoff, 2006)
Metrograph
7 Ludlow St. between Canal & Hester Sts.
Saturday, May 20, 4:00
Series runs May 19-21
212-660-0312
metrograph.com

Director Terry Zwigoff, who has claimed to “not be interested in comics too much” and who made the fab 1995 documentary Crumb, about comic book artist R. Crumb, reteamed with comics legend Daniel Clowes for the outrageously entertaining Art School Confidential, inspired by a four-page black-and-white strip Clowes wrote in a 1991 edition of his comic book Eightball. (The two previously worked together in 2001 on the outstanding Ghost World, earning them an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.) Clowes has expanded Art School Confidential into a very funny satire/murder mystery set in a New York City art school based somewhat on Pratt in Brooklyn (though the film was shot in Southern California). Max Minghella (The Social Network, The Handmaid’s Tale) stars as Jerome Platz, an art student from the suburbs who dreams of becoming the next Picasso. Used to being beat up by bullies, he is desperately looking to fit in somewhere, and he might just find his place in Strathmore art school, along with Beat Girl, Kiss-Ass, Army Jacket, Vegan, Filthy-Haired Girl, Preppy Girl, Nympho, and other stereotypes, as well as the art teacher claiming to be preparing for his own exhibition (John Malkovich, also one of the film’s producers). Jerome is befriended by Bardo (Joel David Moore), a disillusioned student who can’t figure out yet which stereotype Jerome is. Bardo introduces Jerome to Jimmy (Jim Broadbent), a drunken, failed artist who represents many a Strathmore student’s future. Jerome falls hard for Audrey (Sophia Myles), a part-time model who is also being courted by the ridiculously straitlaced and seemingly talentless, though celebrated, Jonah (Matt Keeslar). And one of Jerome’s roommates, the hyperactive Vince (Ethan Suplee), is making a movie about the Strathmore Strangler, who has claimed several victims and is still on the loose. Art School Confidential gets just about everything right (save for two brief appearances of the boom mic), turning clichés inside out in hysterical ways. You don’t have to be a comic-book fan geek to love this film, which is screening May 20 at 4:00 as part of Metrograph’s weekend tribute to Zwigoff, who will be on hand to discuss the work. The series also includes Ghost World, Louie Bluie, Crumb, and the New York premiere of the director’s cut of Bad Santa, with Zwigoff at Metrograph for all screenings.

PRESENT LAUGHTER

(photo by Joan Marcus)

Liz (Kate Burton) comforts ex-husband and master thespian Garry Essendine (Kevin Kline) in Broadway revival of Present Laughter (photo by Joan Marcus)

St. James Theatre
246 West 44th St. between Broadway & Eighth Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through July 2, $59 - $199
laughteronbroadway.com

In the latest Broadway revival of Noël Coward’s WWII-era comedy Present Laughter, two-time Tony winner and Oscar recipient Kevin Kline gets to put his stamp on Garry Essendine, one of the great characters of twentieth-century British theater, and he does so with devilishly wicked delight. He ferociously devours the scenery, following in the footsteps of such previous ferocious scenery devourers as Albert Finney, George C. Scott, Peter O’Toole, Frank Langella, Ian McKellen, Clifton Webb, and the original Essendine, Coward, who based the role on himself; other characters and incidents were inspired by real people and events as well, lending the show an intimate charm with plenty of knowing winks and nods. Essendine is a master thespian preparing for a tour of Africa, but not in peace and quiet — his apartment becomes a carnival of friends, colleagues, staff, lovers, and an oddball stranger. Late one morning, upon learning that Daphne Stillington (Tedra Millan), a young woman he apparently brought home the night before, is in the guest room, Essendine complains to his longtime assistant and confidante, Monica Reed (Kristine Nielsen), “Why didn’t you tell her to dress quietly like a mouse and go home? You know perfectly well it’s agony here in the morning with everybody banging about.” Also turning his impressive London flat (designed by David Zinn) into Victoria Station over the course of the play are Essendine’s ex-wife, Liz (Kate Burton); his manager, Morris Dixon (Reg Rogers); his producer, Henry Lyppiatt (Peter Francis James); Henry’s hot-to-trot wife, Joanna (Cobie Smulders); Daphne’s mother, Lady Saltburn (Sandra Shipley); would-be playwright Roland Maule (Bhavesh Patel); and Essendine’s irrepressible, good-natured valet, Fred (Matt Bittner), and rather strange housekeeper, Miss Erikson (Ellen Harvey). Essendine has built a kind of extended family around himself, one that he might not be able to hold together as things start falling apart, in classically British ways.

(photo by Joan Marcus)

Garry Essendine (Kevin Kline) makes a point in semiautobiographical Noël Coward play (photo by Joan Marcus)

Kline (The Pirates of Penzance, On the Twentieth Century) is masterful as Essendine, his every gesture and utterance beautifully overplayed to the hilt, as if the character can’t tell the difference between the stage and real life, always acting, be it Shakespeare or vaudeville. Kline shows a flair for slapstick comedy reminiscent of Monty Python’s John Cleese — Kline won his Oscar for his supporting role in A Fish Called Wanda, which was written by Cleese and starred fellow Python Michael Palin — whether he’s falling down stairs or trying not to be seduced. The women in the show, which takes its name from a line from the Bard’s Twelfth Night — “Present mirth hath present laughter” — are terrific, led by the stalwart Burton, who played Daphne in Scott’s 1982 production; her Liz is not about to take any garbage from Garry while getting a kick out of all the crazy shenanigans going on around him. The always excellent Nielsen (Betty’s Summer Vacation, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike) who turns Monica into a den mother with a wry sense of humor about her boss’s philandering, and Harvey (How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying, Mary Poppins) is nearly unrecognizable as the dour Miss Erikson, who is not the most caring of housekeepers. Smulders (How I Met Your Mother; Love, Loss, and What I Wore), in her Broadway debut, is sexy and elegant as the manipulative Joanna, while Millan, in her Broadway debut, follows up her success in The Wolves with another strong performance as the overexcited, high-pitched Daphne, determined to get what she wants. The men, however, do not fare as well; Bittner has fun with Fred, but James (Stuff Happens, Hamlet with Kline) and Rogers (Holiday, Privacy) can’t keep up with Kline, looking lost at times, and Patel (War Horse, Indian Ink) is so over the top as Roland that he seems to be in the wrong play. But director Moritz von Stuelpnagel (Hand to God, Important Hats of the Twentieth Century) is able to keep reeling it in whenever it threatens to go a little bit off track, with the help of Kline, who has such an impressive command of the stage and the character that there’s never a doubt that you will presently be laughing; even the way he checks his hair several times in a mirror almost as an aside is an absolute treat, capturing the essence of Garry, and Kevin, with just a few scant motions.

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