Featured events in January 2019
There is plenty to do in NYC on New Year’s Day, so shake off your hangover and get ready to start off 2019 with a bang. Strip down to your skivvies and take part in the annual New Year’s Day Swim at Coney Island, indulge in verse and good food at the annual New Year’s Day Marathon Reading and more.
Each January, Winter Jazzfest hosts a stellar lineup over five nights. Its signature two-night Greenwich Village marathon brings vets and up-and-comers, hordes of music fans and a palpable air of excitement to an array of cozy downtown venues. The shows aren’t individually ticketed, so a wristband grants you access to any of each night’s shows—as long as a given club doesn’t hit capacity, that is.
In January 2002, Improv Everywhere’s Charlie Todd produced the first-ever No Pants Subway Ride and posted the event on YouTube, where the short clip quickly gained popularity. Now it has turned into one of the group's most anticipated events, as thousands of New Yorkers continue the funny tradition on subway cars all across Gotham. Donning winter clothes, minus their pants, the straphangers share the same goal: to confuse bystanders.
Since it was first observed nationwide in January of 1986, the holiday commemorating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has served as a reminder of his legacy to the causes of civil rights, nonviolent opposition and community service.
Theater events in January 2019
Theater review by Helen Shaw When you walk into Say Something Bunny!, you enter another time. You might not notice that at first, because the brick office space where it takes place is so determinedly ordinary-looking. The small audience sits around a doughnut-shaped conference table, and as Alison S.M. Kobayashi begins her multimedia docuplay, some spectators are already paging through the scripts that have been placed in front of each chair. The text turns out to be the full transcript of a real, unlabeled 65-year-old recording that Kobayashi found hidden in an antique wire recorder: the audio relic of a teenage boy in Woodmere, Queens, enthusiastically taping two dozen family members and neighbors. Kobayashi has listened to the recording hundreds of times and has a seemingly boundless interest in the people whose voices it preserves, including amateur recordist David, mother Juliette and neighbor Bunny. She conducts us through a pair of after-dinner conversations, the first in 1952—she deduced the date from song lyrics mentioned on the wire—and the second in 1954. Aided by coauthor Christopher Allen, she pursues hints and half-heard jokes to determine who these people were and what befell them; she shows us the census records she used to find their old houses. The play unspools unhurriedly, leaving space for Kobayashi to make jokes, play short films and highlight points of historical interest. It takes a while for it to sink in that—of course—many of these vibrant people
Theater review by Diane Snyder For seven Harry Potter novels, the mediocrities of the Hogwarts house Hufflepuff lived in the shadow of their overachieving schoolmates. Matt Cox’s Puffs, or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic gives them their due. In this funny and affectionate homage to J.K. Rowling’s world of wiz kids, Harry, Hermione and Ron take a back seat to average American wizard Wayne (Zac Moon), goth gal Megan (Julie Ann Earls) and math genius Oliver (Langston Belton), who is stuck at a school that doesn’t even teach his subject. They may not be at the top of the class, and they’re not wild about Harry, but they persevere through adversity and find power in friendship. A press release asks that the word parody be avoided in describing Puffs, but much of the show’s comedy is clearly aimed at Potterphiles. The 11 cast members play an assortment of characters, from a mumbling potions master to a squeaky house elf, and some of the jokes will be lost on those with no knowledge of the films or books. But even Potter virgins will enjoy the show’s witty wordplay and well-executed physical comedy. At times, the pacing is so frenetic that jokes can’t find a place to land, but there’s heart as well as humor here. In the past two years, Cox and director Kristin McCarthy Parker have shepherded their silly, subversive show from the People’s Improv Theater to Off Broadway’s New World Stages. Like its main characters, Puffs illustrates the heigh
[Note: Since this review was written, Then She Fell has moved and reopened; it now plays on three floors of a church building in Williamsburg.] At first blush, Then She Fell seems to be a small-scale cribbing of Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More. Yes, you wander solo through intricately dressed rooms in a creepy building; yes, that man in a cravat is crawling up the wall in front of you. But you begin to realize that Third Rail Projects’ interactive riff on Lewis Carroll’s Alice books is using a similar language to give you a different experience: When you peer into the looking glass, it stares right back at you. Performed in the former Greenpoint Hospital, the show only permits 15 audience members a pop—making for a distinctly intimate experience. You’re given a shot of mulled wine and a set of keys before nurses, Carroll characters and even the psychotropic author himself usher you through a combination Wonderland–psych ward. As in Sleep No More, no two individuals will have the same evening. You may find yourself taking dictation for the Hatter (the mesmerizing Elizabeth Carena), painting cream-colored roses red with the White Rabbit (Tom Pearson) or sitting down to the infamous tea party with the whole gang. The experiences that director-designer-mastermind Zach Morris and his company offer are stunningly personal. You don’t have a mask to hide behind here—when you peep in on the Red Queen (Rebekah Morin) having a private breakdown, she catches you watching through the two-wa
School of Rock: Theater review by David CoteEver see the pitch-perfect 2003 Jack Black comedy School of Rock? Then you know what to expect from the musical version: fake substitute teacher Dewey Finn frenetically inspiring his charges to release their inner Jimi Hendrix; uptight preppy tweens learning classic riffs; and the band’s pivotal, make-or-break gig, with their overbearing parents watching in horror. We expect cute kids in uniform, a spastic Dewey and face-melting riffs—along with heart-tugging family stuff. It worked for the movie, and wow, does it work on Broadway, a double jolt of adrenaline and sugar to inspire the most helicoptered of tots to play hooky and go shred an ax. For those about to love School of Rock: We salute you. What a relief to see that an unlikely creative team—Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, veteran composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Glenn Slater (Leap of Faith)—successfully execute such a smart transfer of film to stage. This is one tight, well-built show: underscoring the emotional arcs (Dewey as both surrogate kid and parent; the students’ yearning to be heard); gently juicing the romantic subplot between Dewey and buttoned-up school principal Rosalie Mullins (sweetly starchy Sierra Boggess); and knowing when to get out of the way and let the kids jam. School of Rock has absorbed the diverse lessons of Rent, Spring Awakening and Matilda and passes them on to a new generation.You’d have to have zero sense of humor about pop to no
Theater review by Raven Snook [Note: This review is for The New One's Off Broadway run, which ended in August. The show moves to Broadway for nine weeks starting October 25.]Mike Birbiglia may not be thankful for his eventful medical history—a bladder tumor as a teen! an injury by a drunk driver! a life-threatening sleepwalking disorder!—but his fans certainly are. He's a master at turning his travails into dark comedies that are as unflinchingly honest as they are entertaining. Although he honed his punch-line skills on the comedy circuit, his solo performances aren't just glorified stand-up. Since making his Off Broadway debut ten years ago with Sleepwalk with Me, which he later transformed into a best-selling book and an indie film, he's proved to be a gifted theatrical raconteur who weighs the impact and delivery of every word to uproarious effect.Thanks to his fervent following and the small size of the Cherry Lane Theatre, Birbiglia was able to sell out his latest show in advance, without even revealing its theme. But I'll clue you in: The New One is about his reluctant (and, of course, medically arduous) journey to fatherhood and how it has changed his life. That may sound about as scintillating as potato salad, but Birbiglia isn't some generic straight white guy whining about domesticity. He is raw, self-deprecating and painfully aware of both his privilege and his failings. When he admits to thoughts about romance and parenting that are verboten but common, you can
Theater review by Adam Feldman Ah, the joy of watching theater fail. The looming possibility of malfunction is part of what makes live performance exciting, and disasters remind us of that; the rite requires sacrifice. There is more than schadenfreude involved when we giggle at, say, a YouTube video of a high-school Peter Pan crashing haplessly into the scenery. There is also sympathy—there but for the grace of deus ex machina go we all—and, often, a respect for the efforts of the actors to somehow muddle through. Mischief Theatre’s The Play That Goes Wrong takes this experience to farcical extremes, as six amateur British actors (and two crew members who get pressed into service onstage) try to perform a hackneyed whodunnit amid challenges that escalate from minor mishaps (stuck doors, missed cues) to bona fide medical emergencies and massive structural calamities. Depending on your tolerance for ceaseless slapstick, The Play That Goes Wrong will either have you rolling in the aisles or rolling your eyes. It is certainly a marvel of coordination: The imported British cast deftly navigates the pitfalls of Nigel Hook’s ingeniously tumbledown set, and overacts with relish. (I especially enjoyed the muggings of Dave Hearn, Charlie Russell and coauthor Henry Lewis.) Directed by Mark Bell, the mayhem goes like cuckoo clockwork. If you want to have a good time at this show, chances are good that you will; there are many funny sequences, and I laughed a lot. But you may find it
The Irish Rep presents a return engagement of its 2016 adaptation of James Joyce's short story about a holiday meal in Dublin, staged immersively at an intimate Upper East Side townhouse. Ciarán O'Reilly directs a script by Paul Muldoon and Jean Hanff Korelitz, with Melissa Gilbert and Rufus Collins in the central roles. Admission includes dinner and drinks. Read the full 2016 review.
Theater review by Jenna Scherer [Note: This is a review of Daniel's Husband's 2017 production at Primary Stages. The production has returned for an encore engagement at Westside Theatre, with its entire original cast.]There's a pervasive sense of soapboxing to Daniel's Husband, Michael McKeever's relationship dramedy receiving its New York premiere from Primary Stages. The play centers on Daniel (Ryan Spahn) and Mitchell (Matthew Montelongo), a longtime couple who seem to have the perfect life. Daniel's an architect and Mitchell's a successful author; they live in a beautifully appointed home (props to designer Brian Prather) where they throw breezy dinner parties for their circle of friends.Naturally, there's trouble in paradise. Daniel wants the two to tie the knot, and Mitchell doesn't believe in marriage—or rather, in the idea that gay men should aspire to heterosexual relationship norms. It's a debate certainly ripe for dramatization, and one whose primacy McKeever puts front and center from the get-go. "Oh God, please! No more politics," Mitchell's friend (Lou Liberatore) cries in the opening moments. But the playwright's point is clear: If you're a member of a minority that's subject to the machinations of the majority, the personal is always political—whether you want it to be or not.Daniel's Husband begins as a genuine conversation, taking up McKeever's chosen topic and letting characters pass it back and forth and chew on its macro and micro implications. McKeever
Theater review by Regina Robbins If you find that Danny Boyle’s pitch-black 1996 comedy Trainspotting has gotten stale after multiple viewings, you’re in luck: Trainspotting Live has arrived in NYC to give you the fix you need. Based on the Irvine Welsh novel from which the movie was also adapted, Harry Gibson’s play—which actually predates the film—immerses the audience in the angry, druggy world inhabited by young Scotsman Mark Renton (Andrew Barrett) and his mates as they rampage through the late 1980s in Edinburgh. Unemployed and beyond cynical, the lads spend most of their time drunk and/or high, which is wildly funny until the grim realities of addiction take their toll. Happily, at Trainspotting Live the audience has the option to imbibe during the show; it definitely helps to be relaxed, since chances are good that you will be sat on, pulled onstage or spattered with bodily fluids (fake ones, I hope). Most of the characters you remember make appearances here—crazy Begbie (Tom Chandler), amoral Sick Boy (Tariq Malik), pathetic Tommy (Greg Esplin)—and the indelible “worst toilet in Scotland” scene is recreated. But Trainspotting Live is even more episodic than the movie, which only emphasizes how unessential it seems. The sheer outrageousness of the crew’s escapades will probably get you laughing, or screaming, at some point before the show is over (and it moves fast, clocking in at an hour and a quarter), but is anyone really jonesing to see Renton’s shit-stained as
Tom and Betsy Salamon’s unique adventure—part interactive theater, part scavenger hunt, part walking tour—draws participants into an amusing web of puzzles and intrigue. You can choose between the three-hour New York tour, which takes participants through various neighborhoods of lower Manhattan, or the two-hour Village tour, which travels through quirky Greenwich Village on Saturdays. Groups of as many as 11 are booked every half hour.
Music events in January 2019
The turntable whiz hits Brooklyn Bowl to ring in 2018 with his dense, party-fueling beats. He was last heard on the 2016 soulful sixth album, Dame Fortune, in which the "Mad Men" theme producer lays out his ominous hip-hop production behind contributions from artists including R&B guitarist Son Little and spitfire North Carolina rapper Phonte.
As Moor Mother, Philly artist Camae Defstar makes music that bespeaks a punk ethos—sonic chaos and a revolutionary spirit—but relies on noise instrumentation: field recordings, analog sequencers and distorted drum machine collaged into witchy lo-fi "dark rap." Here she pairs with anarchic local noise-maker Dreamcrusher and a special guest.
Halal is a creative overachiever in music, video and event production and anything and everything in between. Devoted to New York's underground scene, she is the creator of the party series Mutual Dreaming and stages the annual weekend festival Sustain-Release. Catch her darkly hued, hallucinatory techno at this eight-hour set.
Few sounds in rock are more loaded with promise than the shrill feedback drone that precedes this band's every gig. The New Orleans sludge-metal group started three decades ago as a bad joke and slowly evolved into an institution, amassing a global following and even turning up on Treme. Here, the masterful riff wranglers, soldiering on after vocalist Mike IX Williams's recent liver transplant and the death of longtime drummer Joey LaCaze, turn up in support of their fine 2014 self-titled comeback LP.
Brooklyn composer-songwriter Ellis Ludwig-Leone's San Fermin touches down to deliver sweet, brass-fangled baroque folk—like Dirty Projectors jamming with DeVotchKa. Prepare yourself for an circuitious journey through Leone's nimble, expansive story-telling, chock-full of grand epiphanies and subtle truths.
The Brooklyn group, which combines neosoul, hip-hop and pop into an intoxicating mix centered on its two talented vocalists, previews its debut album at this gig.
Each January, Winter Jazzfest offers a crash course for anyone interest in exploring NYC's jazz scene. Its signature two-night Greenwich Village marathon brings vets and up-and-comers, hordes of music fans and a palpable air of excitement to an array of cozy downtown venues. The shows aren't individually ticketed, so a wristband grants you access to any of each night's shows—as long as a given club doesn’t hit capacity, that is.
On his project’s debut album, The End of Comedy, musician Michael Collins creates mind-bending, lysergic pop with contributions from Ariel Pink and Weyes Blood, the latter of which joins him at this show.
This annual international-music showcase takes over three stages with represented genres including Indian hip-hop, Iranian folk, Mexican mariachi and Brazilian Tropicália.
For more than a decade, frontman-songwriter Max Bemis has transformed his neurotic woes and exceedingly dirty thoughts into an ongoing alt-rock opera that's brash, barbed and frequently hilarious. Tonight you'll get the best of both worlds, as Bemis presents SA tunes new (heard on its latest LP, I Don't Think It Is) and old.