The Arts Fuse
Boston's Online Arts Magazine: Dance, Film, Literature, Music, Theater, and more
November 28, 2021
Compiled by Bill Marx
As the age of Covid-19 wanes (or waxes?), Arts Fuse critics supply a guide to film, dance, visual art, theater, and music. Please check with venues about whether the event is available by streaming or is in person. More offerings will be added as they come in.
A Docyard Series presentation. Racism is deeply entrenched in our film culture in many ways, including its technical assumptions. For example, the lighting for movie cameras has traditionally been calibrated for white skin. Other production tools also reflect cinema’s racial prejudices. Three filmmakers explore the literal, theoretical, and philosophical dimensions of this history in a discursive, playful, and profound work of nonfiction that takes the form of a series of provocative and thematically linked discussions and interrogations.
through December 1
Brattle Theater, Cambridge
This stunning film from Malta, which played IFFBoston and Sundance, is a human drama shot in a neorealist style. Fisherman Jesmark, spends his days struggling at his trade — the fish are few and money is tight. He is a proud man with a colorful luzzu, a hand-painted wooden fishing boat that’s been passed down through the generations. When his infant son requires medical attention he is forced to compromise time-honored principles. A riveting study of Old World values pit against the realities of the modern world. Trailer
Coolidge Corner Theatre
December 2 at 7 p.m.
A passionate team of engineers from the company OpenAI is challenged to develop an artificial intelligence capable of defeating the World Champions of DOTA 2, a video game more complex than anything attempted by AI in the past — and given only one year to do it. The outcome could alter the way we think about advanced AI systems. Q&A with filmmaker Chad Herschberger, producer Jennifer 8. Lee, and film subjects
Wood and Water
Coolidge Corner Theatre
December 5 at 1:30 p.m.
The Goethe Institute presentation. Anke retires from her job at a church in rural Black Forest in order to to reunite with her children who are living near the Baltic Sea. They had been together there, happily, as a young family. Her son Max is unable to join them because of protests in Hong Kong. She has been out of touch with him for many years and after an otherwise uneventful summer, spent in nostalgia and facing the void of retirement, she decides to visit him. A mother wants to check in on her children every now and then, but Hong Kong is also her adventure, her escape. The Goethe Institute presentation.
Reviewed on The Arts Fuse and Currently Playing
C’Mon C’Mon reviewed by Erica Abeel
Belfast reviewed by Ezra Haber Glenn
The Power of the Dog reviewed by Tim Jackson
The Electrical Life of Louis Wain reviewed by Peg Aloi
Karen Dalton: In My Own Time reviewed by Ed Symkus
— Tim Jackson
COVID PROTOCOLS: Check with specific theaters: requirements often include proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 rapid test. Also, companies are requiring masks at indoor performances.
The Alchemist by Ben Jonson. Adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher. Directed by Jesse Berger. Staged by Red Bull Theater at New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street, New York, New York, through December 19.
Jonsonians rejoice! A chance to see (an adaptation) of the 1610 script, first performed by the King’s Men, that Samuel Taylor Coleridge considered to have one of the three most perfect plots in literature. Has anything changed? Bullies of all description still fleece each other during plague time. “When a wealthy gentleman flees to the country, his trusted servant opens his house to a pair of con artists who set up an animated den of criminal capitalism. Claiming alchemical powers, the quick-witted trio fleece an onslaught of greedy sheep with their miraculous ability to improvise amidst increasingly frantic comings and goings. It’s comic gold with dupes, double-dupes, duels, disguises, and a lucky flea named ‘Lewis.’”
I hope Hatcher didn’t get rid of one of Jonson’s great jokes. Lovewit, panicked member of the upper-middle class, returns home to London once he believes it is safe, but he is wary. (He has kept his distance “While there dies one, a week, / O’ the plague.” Some claimed that corrupted human breath could transmit the disease, which explains Lovewit’s nervous instructions to a servant (who insists he has not been ill) to “Breathe less, and further off.” Jonson knew that the audience members at the show, hearing that line, would look nervously at those seated around them. The plague was not entirely gone in 1610.
White Rabbit Red Rabbit by Nassim Soleimanpour. An online event presented by Arts Emerson, December 7 through 12.
“This contemporary piece features a different actor each night who reads the play for the first time in front of a live virtual audience. From there the actor gives their interpretation of the words of Iranian dramatist Nassim Soleimanpour — resulting in a theatrical experience that can never be replicated. Soleimanpour wrote White Rabbit Red Rabbit in 2010 while he was forbidden from leaving his home country because of his refusal to participate in military service. The play dissects power in a wild, truly original structure, pairing the experience of isolation with daring, unexpected comedy. A new actor will open the script in front of a live virtual audience for the first and last time during the play’s run at ArtsEmerson; in total, six actors will perform the piece as part of this engagement.”
Theater of War: Institute for Veterans and Military Families, an online event, December 7.
“Theater of War is an innovative public health project that presents readings of scenes from ancient Greek plays as a catalyst for guided discussions about the challenges faced by service members, veterans, and their families. Using Sophocles’ Ajax –an ancient play about the suicide of a great, respected warrior—to forge a common vocabulary for openly discussing the visible and invisible wounds of war, these events are aimed at generating compassion and understanding between diverse audiences.”
“This special presentation is being co-presented by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University as part of their Syracuse Serves initiative and is open to the public.”
Featuring performances by Taylor Schilling, David Strathairn, David Denman, Nyasha Hatendi, Marjolaine Goldsmith (Company Manager of Theater of War Productions), Jumaane Williams (Public Advocate of New York City), and Bryan Doerries.
The Last Five Years, written and composed by Jason Robert Brown. Directed by Leigh Barrett. Musical direction by Dan Rodriguez. Staged by the Lyric Stage Company at 140 Clarendon Street, Boston, through December 12.
“There are always two sides to every story; the story depends on who is telling it. This is an emotionally powerful and intimate musical about two New Yorkers in their twenties who fall in and out of love over the course of five years. The show’s unconventional structure consists of Cathy telling her story backwards while Jamie tells his story chronologically.” Arts Fuse review
The Half-Life of Marie Curie by Lauren Gunderson. Directed by Bryn Boice. Produced by The [email protected] Square Theater (A Catalyst [email protected] Production) at Central Square Theater, Cambridge, through December 12.
The plot: “Summer, 1912. Two-time Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie takes refuge with her friend Hertha Aryton, renowned mechanical engineer, after the outing of Marie’s scandalous affair with the married Paul Langevin.” This two-hander dramatizes their “deep friendship, their struggles with double standards, the danger of discoveries, and their passion for science and family.” Considerable theatrical radiance will no doubt be supplied by the casting of vets Lee Mikeska Gardner and Underground Railway’s Debra Wise. Arts Fuse review
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. Directed by Danielle Fauteux Jacques. Staged by the Apollinaire Theatre Company at the Chelsea Theatre Works 189 Winnisimmet Street, Chelsea, MA, through December 19.
A revival of an Apollinaire Theatre Company production of Wilde’s comedy. That new version contains 4 of the 8 original actors “taking over all the roles!”
The Rise and Fall of Holly Fudge by Trista Baldwin. Directed by Courtney Sale. Staged by the Merrimack Repertory Theatre at Liberty Hall, 50 East Merrimack Street, Lowell, MA, through December 12. Video on Demand: December 16-26
The world premiere of a very relevant holiday comedy (which takes place during the pandemic!) commissioned by Merrimack Rep. “Christmas 2020. Carol is a hard-working single mother who makes award-winning “Holly” fudge, named after her daughter. She serves it every holiday. She gifts it to her friends and co-workers. She’s determined that this year won’t be any different, even if she has to wear a mask while whipping up her famous dessert. But with her daughter Holly’s girlfriend crashing Christmas, her neighbor’s new-found love of confectionery, and the protests erupting on her front lawn, Carol is finding it tough to make this the most wonderful time of year.”
Witness by Nana Grinstein with Blair Cadden & Igor Golyak. Conceived and directed by Igor Golyak . Scenography & Costume Design by Anna Fedorova. Produced by Sara Stackhouse Featuring the Arlekin Acting Company. Staged by Arlekin Players Theatre and Zero Gravity (zero-G) Virtual Theater Lab, a live virtual offering that will include a post-show talkback with members of the cast and creative team, December 10 through January 23, 2022.
The world premiere of “a new documentary theater piece about Jewish immigration in the face of antisemitism.” The play “brings actors and audience together from around the world for a shared immersive experience set on a boat in digital space. The piece is inspired by the journey of the MS St. Louis, which left Hamburg in 1939 with over 900 Jewish people on board and headed to Cuba only to be turned away, leaving the passengers stranded with nowhere to go and no escape.” The play “shares stories of Jewish immigrants from around the globe through an interactive virtual theater experience at the nexus of film, theater and video games.”
Incels and Other Myths by Ally Sass. Directed by Erica Terpening-Romeo. A BU New Play Initiative production, produced by Boston Playwrights’ Theatre and the Boston University College of Fine Arts School of Theatre at the Boston Playwrights Theatre, 949 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, December 2 through 12.
“The drama journeys into the online realms of gender, power and mythology when Elaine, a teacher of Women in Mythology, grows concerned when son Avery spends much of his time playing the online adventure game Oracle, involving himself in the notorious, misogynistic “incel” community. Through their descent into fraught online territory, Avery and Elaine discover unexpected and intoxicating new realities that shape how they see their own worlds.
Teenage Dick by Mike Lew. Directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel. Staged by the Huntington Theatre Company at the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA, Boston, December 2 through January 2, 2022 (with digital access to the filmed performance through January 16, 2022). The production is produced in association with Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company (Washington, DC) and Pasadena Playhouse (Pasadena, CA). The play originated at Ma-Yi Theatre Company (New York, NY) in association with The Public Theater (New York, NY).
This adaption of Shakespeare Richard III “centers on a high school outsider named Richard. Bullied because of his cerebral palsy, Richard decides to exact revenge on his class enemies by becoming the senior class president. But all the scheming, manipulation, and revenge plots force him to ask the age-old question: is it better to be loved or feared?”
— Bill Marx
A tradition returns, as the Tedeschi Trucks Band performs its final shows of the year at a four-night residency at the Orpheum Theater in Boston starting Nov. 30. Tickets for that two-set “evening with” show and for the Dec. 1 concert with opener Miko Marks remain. The two-set concerts on Dec. 3 and 4 are sold out.
The pandemic put the kibosh on the residency last year, and it’s only been a few months now since the full-strength Tedeschi Trucks Band has been back in business. Guitar mavens and band leaders Derek Trucks and Norwell native Susan Tedeschi led a scaled-down version of the troupe for a run of summer concerts, which proved to be a very satisfying alternative.
Yet when the whole 12-member-strong TTB took the stage at New York City’s Beacon Theater for a seven-night run earlier this fall, it was a joyous explosion of music, with the full horn section and all of the backing vocalists elevating the proceedings. The band’s new drummer, Isaac Eady, has also seamlessly woven his talents into the group alongside co-drummer Tyler Greenwell.
If past years of the Orpheum residency prove anything, expect TTB to leave it all on the stage — the 2019 three-night residency, for instance, featured 61 unique songs with no repeats — before the band members head home for the holidays.
— Scott McLennan
Roots and World Music
Warren Ertle’s Hot Peppers with special guest Vince Giordano
Crystal Ballroom, Somerville Theater
The Somerville Theater’s new upstairs venue has been dedicating Tuesday to the kind of swing dances that might have been presented when the ballroom was first in use decades ago. Pianist Warren Ertle, a student of the Jelly Roll Morton approach, will be leading a band that includes bassist Vince Giordano, whose Nighthawks are the longtime kings of the New York vintage jazz scene.
Matt Flinner and Low Lily
Club Passim, Cambridge
The music calendar is chock full of holiday shows. One of the more enticing, low-key options is this Solstice-themed night of roots and bluegrass from veteran superpicker Flinner in combination with Low Lily, an aggregation of three of New England’s beloved acoustic singers and players: Lissa Schneckenburger (vocals, fiddle), Liz Simmons (vocals, guitar), and Flynn Cohen (vocals, guitar, mandolin) .
— Noah Schaffer
KAIROS at Medicine Wheel
November 30, 11:59 p.m.
Boston Center for the Arts, Boston
Produced annually since 1992, Medicine Wheel is the largest recurring site-specific public art event in Boston. It is led by visual artist Michael Dowling and presented in the historic Cyclorama at Boston Center for the Arts. KAIROS Dance Theater will open this remembrance of the tragedy of the AIDS epidemic on November 30 when the clock strikes midnight. That kicks off a full 24-hour December 1st vigil of prayer, dance, song, and ritual.
And further afield…
Newport Nutcracker at Rosecliff
through December 3
Rosecliff Mansion, Newport, RI
It’s officially Nutcracker season, and with it comes the 20th anniversary of the enchanting, site-specific Newport Nutcracker at Rosecliff. Find yourself swept up in the magic of Rosecliff Mansion’s magnificent ballrooms and staircases as this classic ballet unfolds around you. Note: All patrons must be 12+, provide proof of vaccination, and wear masks to this performance.
— Merli V. Guerra
Quilts, community, and memory have been connected since the beginning of the craft, but in recent decades the scope of quiltmaking has become increasingly ambitious. At this point, it has expanded into playing a role in medical crises, including issues of death, survival, and commemoration.
Organized in 2020, the Boston Area Mask Initiative (BAMI) brought together hundreds of volunteers to create hand-sewn face masks for medical staff, essential workers, and others in need of them during the COVID-19 pandemic. Out of the leftover fabric from 50,000 masks, BAMI craftspeople and volunteers stitched together the Commemorative Mask Scrap Quilt in memory of those lost to COVID, as well as in honor of those struggling to survive. For about a month, staring on December 4, Brockton’s Fuller Craft Museum will display the colorful king-sized quilt to the public. This represents a new and vital entry in the social history of the craft.
Several museums are marking World AIDS Day and Day With(out) Art in December via an annual tradition that was begin by the activist group Visual AIDS more than 30 years ago. Hartford’s Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art will hold a virtual World AIDS Day Poetry Reading and Performance on December 1 at 6 p.m. The participants will include Hartford Poet Laureate and HIV/AIDS activist Frederick Douglass Knowles II, former New London poet laureate Rhonda Ward, and Summer Tate, a Hartford area teacher and poet. The event will also commemorate Shawn Lang, former deputy director of AIDS Connecticut, who died earlier this year. The online event is free of charge.
In connection with its exhibition States of Play: Prints from Rembrandt to Delsarte, which opened in September, the Harvard Art Museums will present Playing with States: A Conversation with Local Printmakers on December 8 at 4 p.m. (the title of both the exhibition and the event pun on the printmaking term “state,” which is used to mark different stages in the creation of a print’s development and editions). The virtual event will feature curator Elizabeth Rudy and art conservator Christina Taylor in a lively conversation with Boston area printmakers on the “state” of local printmaking.
On December 5, the Worcester Art Museum will hold a live and on-site Community Day to celebrate Hanukkah and WAM 2021. Organized for the third year in partnership with the Worcester Jewish Community Center and the Jewish Federation of Central MA, the celebrations will continue all day on Sunday from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. There will be presentations for all ages, including Klezmer music, live latke-making demonstrations, story times, and discussions about the traditions and history of the holiday. Admission to the museum and all the events are free all day long.
The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown will present the lecture Graphic Battles — Art as Quilombo on December 7 at 5 p.m., with Roberto Conduru, the Endowed Distinguished Professor of Art History at Southern Methodist University. Professor Conduru’s talk will focus on the Brazilian quilombos, or communities of escaped African slaves known as maroons in the colonial period, as “marginal” territories (of temporary or permanent duration) that served as opposition to formal colonial settlements. He will juxtapose maps from the 17th and 18th centuries with recent works (in many media) by Afro-Brazilian artists, including James Lauriano, Wagner Leitz Viana, Goya Lopes, and Tiago Sant’Ana, who draw on quilombos as symbols for their artistic activism. The lecture video will be posted on December 7 and will be available until December 11 on the museum’s website.
— Peter Walsh
December 3 at 8 p.m.
GBH and JazzBoston present this live, free virtual concert by distinguished, multifaceted pianist and composer Donal Fox, live from GBH’s Fraser Performance Studio. Fox came to the fore with his jazz mashups of composers like Monk, Bach, and Scarlatti. This show will include a mix of Fox’s original takes on those composers as well as pieces inspired by Chopin, Coltrane, Piazzolla, Horace Silver, and others. GBH jazz radio host Eric Jackson and classical music host Cathy Fuller will co-moderate the event, including discussion with Fox and taking questions from the virtual audience. The event is free, but registration is required.
December 3 and 4 at 8 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston
No doubt these four performances will show off the multimillion-record-selling, Grammy-winning talents of the Brazilian-born Eliane Elias as a double threat: Brazilian samba and bossa singer and killer jazz pianist. (Her latest disc, Mirror Mirror, is a series of duets with Chick Corea and Chucho Valdés.)
Julian Lage Trio
December 3 at 8 p.m
Berklee Peformance Center, Boston
Guitarist Julian Lage has been a rising star to watch ever since his emergence with the Gary Burton Quartet as a teenager. Now 33, with a clutch of impressive albums as a leader behind him (including outstanding duo discs with pianist Fred Hersch and guitarist Nels Cline), he’s the fully realized deal. This year’s Squint shows his ever voracious ears are what feed his extraordinary chops and make them worth hearing — post-bop, country, French impressionism, international folk musics. It’s all there, fully synthesized in Lage’s unique sound. He’s joined for this show by his trio-mates from the album, bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Dave King (of the Bad Plus).
December 8 at 8 p.m.
Red Room at Café 939, Boston
Kinda crazy supergroup playing Berklee’s Red Room at Café 939: drummer-composer-activist Terri Lyne Carrington, pianist-composer Kris Davis, bassist-composer Linda May Han Oh, and special guest, trumpeter-composer Ambrose Akinmusere. These heavy cats will be playing with students from the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice, of which Carrington is the founding artistic director and Davis is an associate director. They’ll be playing songs from the forthcoming book New Standards: 101 Lead Sheets By Women Composers, which will also be featured the upcoming album New Standards, Vol. One.
Jason Palmer Quintet
December 11 at 3 p.m.
Arlington Street Church, Boston
Trumpeter and composer Jason Palmer has been one of the most important jazz musicians on the Boston scene for the past decade — helming the house jazz band at the venerable Wally’s in the South End, a go-to guy for local bandleaders and bands visiting town, leading his own bands and releasing his own provocative recordings projects. Besides being a singular musical intelligence on the bandstand, he’s one of the people who make this scene happen. For this show, the theme will be “holiday favorites, inspired by Ellington and Jones.” (Duke and Thad, that is.) This free concert from Celebrity Series of Boston (the last of this season’s Neighborhood Arts & Community Music Series) will also be available to stream on-demand on YouTube, for three months, beginning December 16 at 8 p.m. But come on, check it out in person!
December 11 at 8 and 10 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston
If you want to hear great salsa-jazz, you might as well check out one of the guys who invented it — pianist and composer Eddie Palmieri. Palmieri’s Afro-Latin grooves are deathless, just as his inventiveness as a pianist is endless (his prime influences were Thelonious Monk and McCoy Tyner). About to turn 85 (December 15), Palmieri in recent clips and recordings is still a wonder.
— Jon Garelick
Virtual Event: Kevin Birmingham – Harvard Book Store
The Sinner and the Saint: Dostoevsky and the Gentleman Murderer Who Inspired a Masterpiece
November 29 at 7 p.m.
Free with $5 suggested donation
“The Sinner and the Saint is the deeply researched and immersive tale of how Dostoevsky came to write his great murder story [Crime and Punishment]— and why it changed the world. As a young man, Dostoevsky was a celebrated writer, but his involvement with the radical politics of his day condemned him to a long Siberian exile. There, he spent years studying the criminals that were his companions. Upon his return to St. Petersburg in the 1860s, he fought his way through gambling addiction, debilitating debt, epilepsy, the deaths of those closest to him, and literary banishment to craft an enduring classic.”
Virtual Event: Faith Jones with Amanda Montell – brookline booksmith
Sex Cult Nun
November 29 at 8 p.m.
“Educated meets The Vow in this story of liberation and self-empowerment — an inspiring and stranger-than-fiction memoir of growing up in and breaking free from the Children of God, an oppressive, extremist religious cult.
“Faith Jones was raised to be part of an elite army preparing for the End Times. Growing up on an isolated farm in Macau, she prayed for hours every day and read letters of prophecy written by her grandfather, the founder of the Children of God. Tens of thousands of members strong, the cult followers looked to Faith’s grandfather as their guiding light. As such, Faith was celebrated as special and then punished doubly to remind her that she was not.”
Virtual Event: Robert A. Gross – Harvard Book Store
The Transcendentalists and Their World
November 30 at 7 p.m.
Free with $5 suggested donation
“The Transcendentalists and Their World offers a fresh view of the thinkers whose outsize impact on philosophy and literature would spread from tiny Concord to all corners of the earth. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and the Alcotts called this New England town home, and Thoreau drew on its life extensively in his classic Walden. But Concord from the 1820s through the 1840s was no pastoral place fit for poets and philosophers.”
Virtual Event: Rob Reich, Mehran Sahami, and Jeremy M. Weinstein – Harvard Book Store
System Error: How Big Tech Went Wrong and How To Reboot It
December 2 at 12 p.m.
Free with $5 contribution
“System Error exposes the root of our current predicament: how big tech’s relentless focus on optimization is driving a future that reinforces discrimination, erodes privacy, displaces workers, and pollutes the information we get. This optimization mindset substitutes what companies care about for the values that we as a democratic society might choose to prioritize. Well-intentioned optimizers fail to measure all that is meaningful and, when their creative disruptions achieve great scale, they impose their values upon the rest of us.”
Virtual Event: Neal Stephenson with David Keith – Porter Square Books
Termination Shock: A Novel
December 2 at 7 p.m.
Free with $5 contribution
“Ranging from the Texas heartland to the Dutch royal palace in the Hague, from the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas to the sunbaked Chihuahuan Desert, Termination Shock brings together a disparate group of characters from different cultures and continents who grapple with the real-life repercussions of global warming. Ultimately, it asks the question: Might the cure be worse than the disease?
Epic in scope while heartbreakingly human in perspective, Termination Shock sounds a clarion alarm, ponders potential solutions and dire risks, and wraps it all together in an exhilarating, witty, mind-expanding speculative adventure.”
WBUR CitySpace: Huma Abedin – brookline booksmith
December 7 at 6 p.m.
Tickets are $25 w/ reservations, $15 general admission, $5 student
“Radio Boston host Tiziana Dearing moderates a conversation with Huma Abedin, longtime aide to Hillary Clinton, about her new memoir, Both/And: A Life in Many Worlds. From a cloistered childhood spent in Saudi Arabia to the inner circle of the Clinton White House, Abedin chronicles her journey and addresses for the first time the humiliating collision of her personal and professional life.”
Live with Brookline Booksmith! Adam Schiff: Midnight in Washington – brookline booksmith
Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could
December 11 at 2 p.m.
$35 with signed copy of book, $8 general admission
“In Midnight in Washington, Schiff argues that the Trump presidency has so weakened our institutions and compromised the Republican Party that the peril will last for years, requiring unprecedented vigilance against the growing and dangerous appeal of authoritarianism.
The congressman chronicles step by step just how our democracy was put at such risk, and traces his own path to meeting the crisis—from serious prosecutor, to congressman with an expertise in national security and a reputation for bipartisanship, to liberal lightning rod, scourge of the right, and archenemy of a president. Schiff takes us inside his team of impeachment managers and their desperate defense of the constitution amid the rise of a distinctly American brand of autocracy.”
— Matt Hanson
Filed Under: Coming Attractions, Featured, Preview
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