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The best arts & culture in NYC: Critics' picks

Find the best theater, art, dance, classical, books and museum events in New York City this week.

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  • Theater
  • Musicals
  • price 3 of 4
  • Midtown West

Holly-Anne Devlin's evening of naughty-and-nice entertainment mixes plentiful liquor with performers from the worlds of burlesque, cirque and musical theater. Jada Temple serves as the mistress of ceremonies, Madam Lulu, joined by a rotating cast that includes Omar Edwards, Dirty Martini, LouLou D’vil, Opera Gaga, Joey Taranto, Sarah Meahl, Kristin Yancy, Alec Varcas, Megan Campbell, Lauren Mary Moore, Miss Miranda, Tansy Burlesque, Audrey Love, Bassam Kubba and Mendel Roman, Melike Konur, LĂ szlĂČ Major, Mike Pugliese, Allison Schieler, Syrena, Karma Stylez, Peekaboo Pointe and contortionist Aryn. As a bonus, it's a surprisingly good deal if you like to drink: The ticket price includes an appetizer and five custom cocktails.  

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Theater
  • Drama
  • price 3 of 4
  • Midtown West

Broadway review by Adam Feldman Lucas Hnath’s uncanny and unsettling play Dana H. doesn’t channel the dead; it channels the living. Its subject is harrowingly personal. In 1998, when Hnath was in college, his mother, Dana Higginbotham, was beaten and held captive for five months by a violent criminal and white-supremacist gang member named Jim. In 2015, Steve Cosson, of the docutheater troupe the Civilians, interviewed her about this ordeal over the course of several days. Their conversations form the basis of Dana H., but instead of editing them into a conventional script, Hnath has kept them in audio form. In the title role, Deirdre O’Connell does not speak a word; for 75 minutes, calmly facing us in an armchair, she lip-syncs to Dana’s actual voice. O’Connell is nothing less than astonishing. Long-form lip-sync is not new—one thinks of Bradford Louryk’s Christine Jorgensen Reveals, Lypsinka’s The Passion of the Crawford, much of the Wooster Group’s oeuvre—but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it done quite so unshowily. This is a performance of virtuoso naturalism, radiant with inner life; the technique is so perfect that it disappears. At many points in the show, I would have believed she was talking into a body mic, even though Mikhail Fiksel’s astute sound design and editing make it clear that we’re listening to a recording. (The actor and magician Steve Cuiffo is credited as her lip-sync consultant.) The effect of this device is complex: The use of Dana’s voice gives her te

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theater
  • Drama
  • price 3 of 4
  • Midtown West

Broadway review by Adam Feldman The first day of rehearsals for a 1950s Broadway play about lynching is about to begin, and a seasoned Black actress is showing a younger castmate the ropes. “Don’t get too cocky. They don’t like that,” Wiletta (LaChanze) advises John (Brandon Michael Hall) on the subject of how to deal with their white managers. “Laugh! Laugh at everything they say, makes ’em feel superior.” The beautiful Wiletta has a smile that lights up a room, and she knows how to turn it on whether she’s happy or not; John may chafe at her advice—”Sounds kinda Uncle Tommish,” he says—but she has been in the business long enough to know that a business is what it is: not theater, as he imagines, but show business. (“Colored folks ain’t in no theater.”) And in this system, even on the rare occasions that they get to play a role that isn’t a nanny or a maid, Black performers remain the help. So begins Alice Childress’s trenchant Trouble in Mind, which debuted Off Broadway in 1955 and has now reached the Great White White for the first time in an exemplary production directed by Charles Randolph-Wright. Prospects for a Broadway transfer in the 1950s, a pre-curtain announcement informs us, fell through when Childress refused to soften the play’s ending. As a result, Trouble in Mind has largely fallen into obscurity, which makes this Roundabout Theatre Company revival feel like even more of a revelation. It’s as though an old curtain had been lifted from a mirror: To a startlin

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theater
  • Circuses & magic
  • price 4 of 4
  • Chelsea

Todd Robbins (Play Dead) is a sideshow master who combines technical expertise with humor, historical knowledge and good old-fashioned showmanship. In his soirees at the McKittrick'sManderley Bar venue, he welcomes a live jazz pianist to set the atmosphere and guest magicians (such as Alex Boyce, Jason Suran, Mark Calabrese, Matthew Holtzclaw, Prakash Puru and Rachel Wax) to perform feats of close-up magic in an intimate setting. Review by Adam Feldman  The low-key dazzling Speakeasy Magick has been nestled in the atmospheric McKittrick Hotel for more than a year, and now it has moved up to the Lodge: a small wood-framed room at Gallow Green, which functions as a rooftop bar in the summer. The show’s dark and noisy new digs suit it well. Hosted by Todd Robbins (Play Dead), who specializes in mild carnival-sideshow shocks, Speakeasy Magick is a moveable feast of legerdemain; audience members, seated at seven tables, are visited by a series of performers in turn. Robbins describes this as “magic speed dating.” One might also think of it as tricking: an illusion of intimacy, a satisfying climax, and off they go into the night. The evening is punctuated with brief performances on a makeshift stage. When I attended, the hearty Matthew Holtzclaw kicked things off with sleight of hand involving cigarettes and booze; later, the delicate-featured Alex Boyce pulled doves from thin air. But it’s the highly skilled close-up magic that really leaves you gasping with wonder. Holtzclaw’s t

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theater
  • Drama
  • price 3 of 4
  • DUMBO

Theater review by Adam Feldman Since The Walworth Farce in 2008, St. Ann’s Warehouse has been administering nearly annual doses of experimental theater by the prolific Irish playwright and director Enda Walsh, with side effects ranging from confusion and fatigue to rapid mood swings and euphoria. “I’ve been writing the same play for 25 years,” Walsh acknowledges in the program for his newest opus, Medicine. “Well, the same type of play in ever so slightly different forms.” As in such past works as Disco Pigs, Ballyturk and Arlington, the primary focus is on the operations of storytelling within an enclosed world—in this case, a mental hospital, where a long-term patient named John (a touching Domhnall Gleeson) undergoes a strange form of dramatherapy with two visiting professional actors and a live, loud drummer. For the pajama-clad John, a gentle person with a poetic inclination who does not know why he has been committed except that he is “not like other people,” this session represents a rare chance to try to understand his situation. For the actors, who are both named Mary and who wear t-shirts with the logos of Broadway musicals, it is a gig. Mary 2 (Clare Barrett)—who enters in a hilarious lobster costume that she will be wearing later for a children’s party—is a bulldozer of self-regard: “What’s the first rule of acting? ‘Be important,’” she advises the more modest and thoughtful Mary 1 (Aoife Duffin), who also functions as the sound operator. Their script, prepared by

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theater
  • Drama
  • price 3 of 4
  • Noho

Theater review by Raven Snook In a program note for cullud wattah, Erika Dickerson-Despenza's devastating new drama about the impact of the Flint water crisis on an intergenerational household of Black women, the playwright welcomes audiences to "participate both physically and audibly." At this neo-Greek tragedy about an American travesty, gasps and tears complete the experience. General Motors employee, breadwinner and widowed single mom Marion (Crystal A. Dickinson, heartbreaking) is desperately trying to keep her family's heads above dirty water. Her queer teenage daughter Reesee (a winning Lauren F. Walker) prays to a Yoruba deity to help her little sister, Plum (Alicia Pilgrim), who has leukemia, and their pregnant aunt, Ainee (Andrea Patterson), a recovering addict who's had six previous miscarriages. Meanwhile, matriarch Big Ma (a commanding Lizan Mitchell) continually invokes the will of God even as politicians and corporations spread poison to a trapped population. Though billed as an Afro-surrealist piece, cullud wattah is dramatically straightforward and, despite moments of joy, predictably sad. Yet it transcends its issue-play roots. Dickerson-Despenza and director Candis C. Jones personalize Flint’s public-health crisis with poetry and feeling; familiar ethical debates and secret confessions—like Big Ma's story of forbidden love—seem fresh thanks to lived-in performances, exhilarating language and stunning aesthetics. The characters haunt scenic designer Adam Ri

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theater
  • Comedy
  • price 3 of 4
  • Midtown West

Broadway review by Adam Feldman “You know why I love the sandwich, ‘cuz it’s a complete meal that you can hold between your fingers,” says Montrellous (Ron Cephas Jones), an ex-convict working as a line cook and unofficial chef de cuisine at Clyde’s, a truck stop in Pennsylvania. “It’s the most democratic of all foods. Two pieces of bread, and between, you can put anything you want. It invites invention and collaboration.” Lynn Nottage has assembled Clyde’s in a similar spirit. It comes as something of a surprise that the playwright behind such heavy works as Intimate Apparel, Sweat and Ruined (the latter two of which earned Pulitzer Prizes) should make her Broadway return with the feel-good play of the season. But from seemingly disparate ingredients—slices of ex-con life, a dash of fresh rom-com, a battle between the forces of good and evil—Nottage and director Kate Whoriskey have crafted a light, delicious medley of sustenance and flavor. Montrellous and his three kitchen disciples, who are also trying to rebuild their lives after prison, create their sandwiches with extra love and attention that have made the humble Clyde’s a destination for working-class travelers and local foodies alike. In their downtime, they brainstorm fantasy snacks (“Pulled pork, pickled onions, blueberry compote on a soft pretzel roll”) and test workshop versions of them under Monty’s gentle but firm tutelage. He is their panreligious leader, variously referred to as a sensei, a shaman, a priest

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theater
  • Drama
  • price 3 of 4
  • Midtown West

Broadway review by Adam Feldman The Broadway epic The Lehman Trilogy, which tells the story of the Lehman Brothers and their finance company over the span of 164 years, rarely stops spinning. Es Devlin’s magnificent glass house of a set, designed to evoke the firm’s offices at the time of its collapse in 2008, rotates on a turntable as history moves forward; wrapped on the walls around it is a giant cyclorama, where Luke Hall’s black-and-white video design sweeps the action from New York Harbor to the antebellum South and beyond. Meanwhile, Stefano Massini’s play takes the raw materials of the Lehmans’ rise and fall and processes them into a vibrant yarn about greed and American values. It leaves you dazzled and a little dizzy.  This cautionary tale about capitalist excess is, in several senses, an embarrassment of riches. Many Broadway plays now clock in at under 90 minutes; The Lehman Trilogy is nearly three and a half hours long, with intermissions at the crisis points of the Civil War and the stock market crash of 1929. Director Sam Mendes’s dynamic production passes swiftly, though—it’s like binge-watching a creative documentary with three hour-long episodes—and it presents an engrossing survey of U.S. history since the middle of the 19th century. (Written by an Italian and adapted into English by the U.K.’s Ben Power, it assumes a slight distance from American culture; the set sometimes might be a terrarium at a zoo.) Adding to the power are Jon Clark’s lighting and Nic

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Theater
  • Drama
  • price 4 of 4
  • Midtown West

[Note: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child returns to Broadway on November 12 in a new form: as a single show instead of in two parts. The new running time is estimated to be under 3.5 hours.] Theater review by Adam Feldman  The world of Harry Potter has arrived on Broadway, Hogwarts and all, and it is a triumph of theatrical magic. Set two decades after the final chapters of J.K. Rowling’s world-shaking kid-lit heptalogy, the two-part epic Harry Potter and the Cursed Child combines grand storytelling with stagecraft on a scale heretofore unimagined. Richly elaborated by director John Tiffany, the show looks like a million bucks (or, in this case, a reported $68 million); the Lyric Theatre has been transfigured from top to bottom to immerse us in the narrative. It works: The experience is transporting. Jack Thorne’s play, based on a story he wrote with Rowling and Tiffany, extends the Potter narrative while remaining true to its core concerns. Love and friendship and kindness are its central values, but they don’t come easily: They are bound up in guilt, loneliness and fear. Harry (Jamie Parker) is weighted with trauma dating back to his childhood, which hinders his ability to communicate with his troubled middle son, Albus (Sam Clemmett); it doesn’t help that Albus’s only friend is the bookish outcast Scorpius Malfoy (the exceptional Anthony Boyle), son of Harry’s erstwhile enemy, Draco (Alex Price). Despite the best intentions of Harry’s solid wife, Ginny (Poppy Miller), a

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theater
  • Comedy
  • price 3 of 4
  • Hell's Kitchen

Theater review by Elysa Gardner It could be argued that Morning’s at Seven’s enduring charm lies as much in the actors who have appeared in Paul Osborn’s account of four aging, deeply attached sisters as in the play itself. The first Broadway revival, in 1980, made a star of David Rounds, who shared the stage with Nancy Marchand, Maureen O’Sullivan, Elizabeth Wilson and Teresa Wright; the second, in 2002, featured celebrated performances by Elizabeth Franz, Estelle Parsons and Frances Sternhagen. For this latest Off Broadway production, director Dan Wackerman has assembled his own posse of stage and screen veterans.  The redoubtable Judith Ivey was to be among them, until an eleventh-hour injury forced her to bow out, as Arry Gibbs, the youngest and only unmarried sibling, who lives with her sister Cora and Cora’s husband, Thor, in a house next to the one where Ida, another sister, resides with her own spouse, Carl, and their middle-aged son, Homer. The fourth and eldest sister, Esty, lives nearby in their small town, but has been forbidden to visit by her husband, David, a smug ex-professor who considers his in-laws a bunch of morons. But nothing can keep Esty away when it’s announced that Homer—a reclusive nerd who has inherited Carl’s crippling lack of confidence—is due to finally bring home Myrtle, the mystery woman he has purportedly been dating for some time. Myrtle’s arrival proves a catalyst for reflection and confrontation among the senior relatives. While all are en

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theater
  • Musicals
  • price 3 of 4
  • Midtown West

Theater review by Adam Feldman  Here’s my advice: Go to hell. And by hell, of course, I mean Hadestown, AnaĂŻs Mitchell’s fizzy, moody, thrilling new Broadway musical. Ostensibly, at least, the show is a modern retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice: Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy goes to the land of the dead in hopes of retrieving girl, boy loses girl again. “It’s an old song,” sings our narrator, the messenger god Hermes (AndrĂ© De Shields, a master of arch razzle-dazzle). “And we’re gonna sing it again.” But it’s the newness of Mitchell’s musical account—and Rachel Chavkin’s gracefully dynamic staging—that bring this old story to quivering life. In a New Orleans–style bar, hardened waif Eurydice (Eva Noblezada) falls for Orpheus (Reeve Carney), a busboy with an otherworldly high-tenor voice who is working, like Roger in Rent, toward writing one perfect song. But dreams don’t pay the bills, so the desperate Eurydice—taunted by the Fates in three-part jazz harmony—opts to sell her soul to the underworld overlord Hades (Patrick Page, intoning jaded come-ons in his unique sub-sepulchral growl, like a malevolent Leonard Cohen). Soon she is forced, by contract, into the ranks of the leather-clad grunts of Hades’s filthy factory city; if not actually dead, she is “dead to the world anyway.” This Hades is a drawling capitalist patriarch who keeps his minions loyal by giving them the minimum they need to survive. (“The enemy is poverty,” he sings to them in

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theater
  • Comedy
  • price 2 of 4
  • Tribeca

Theater review by Adam Feldman If you have a heart for downtown experimental theater, while you were partying may be the defibrillator you need. Soho Rep’s first production since the shutdown is a short, sharp shock of a play: an unsettling, creepily funny 50-minute exploration of anger, created by writer-director-performers Julia Mounsey and Peter Mills Weiss in collaboration with comedian Brian Fiddyment. Divided into three parts, this ball of fury is sometimes contained and sometimes flares to outrageous size, but all of it burns.  Mounsey begins the play by playing a recording of herself telling a story while she sits mutely in a chair onstage, watching us as we watch her. Her story, which she calls “The Angriest I’ve Ever Been,” involves visiting a friend from high school named Brian while he recovers from a failed suicide attempt; she loses her temper and says hurtful things, which she feels guilty about. This anecdote serves as an introduction to the staged-reading-within-a-play that follows—the work-in-progress draft, she says, of a comedy she has written by way of apology to Brian. But there’s nothing conciliatory about it: It’s a savage portrait of a pathetic man-baby monster named Brian who exists in a perpetual state of tantrum. (“I want to be a Weapon of Healing,” Mounsey explains later. “But that’s not what weapons do.”)    This version of Brian is a relentless tornado of entitlement, panic and desperation, and Fiddyment plays him with a sustained intensity that

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  • Theater
  • Musicals
  • price 3 of 4
  • Midtown West

You’ll get a kick out of this holiday stalwart, which still features Santa, wooden soldiers and the dazzling Rockettes. In recent years, new music, more eye-catching costumes and advanced technology have been introduced to bring audience members closer to the performance. Whatever faults one may find with this awesomely lavish annual pageant (it's basically a celebration of the virtues of shopping), this show has legs. And what legs! In the signature kick line that finds its way into most of the big dance numbers, the Rockettes’ 36 flawless pairs of gams rise and fall like the batting of an eyelash, their perfect unison a testament to the disciplined human form. This is precision dancing on a massive scale—a Busby Berkeley number come to glorious life—and it takes your breath away. RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theater
  • Classical
  • price 3 of 4
  • Hell's Kitchen

Theater review by Adam Feldman Theater is a confidence game: The actors’ unshaking commitment to the untruths they are telling can hook an audience on even the most dubious of lines. This sustained bluff goes a long way in Red Bull Theater’s production of The Alchemist, freely adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher from Ben Jonson’s 1610 comedy about frauds and the dupes who love them.  The Alchemist reunites Hatcher with some of the principal movers behind Red Bull’s hit 2017 production of The Government Inspector: not just director Jesse Berger, but also set designer Alexis Distler, who contributes another handsome bilevel playing space, and costumer Tilly Grimes, who fashions a beguiling succession of outfits and disguises. Retooled for modern audiences, Hatcher’s version of the play is stuffed with silly characters, anachronistic jokes and opportunities for broad physical comedy by the actors: Berger’s hams keep things moving through six doors and one revolving wall, all in frequent use.  “I fart at thee!” says one swindler to another at the start of the show—in a line that comes straight from Jonson’s text—and the cast is a gas. Manoel Felciano plays the London butler Face, who uses his absent master’s house as the base for schemes to bilk pigeons from their ducats. He is joined by two partners in crime: the louche Subtle, played with grandiose ooze by Reg Rogers (any actor can draw out a vowel, but no one draws out consonants so well), and the loose Dol Common, played by Jennifer S

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Hamilton
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Theater
  • Musicals
  • price 4 of 4
  • Midtown West

Hamilton: Theater review by David Cote What is left to say? After Founding Father Alexander Hamilton’s prodigious quill scratched out 12 volumes of nation-building fiscal and military policy; after Lin-Manuel Miranda turned that titanic achievement (via Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography) into the greatest American musical in decades; after every critic in town (including me) praised the Public Theater world premiere to high heaven; and after seeing this language-drunk, rhyme-crazy dynamo a second time, I can only marvel: We've used up all the damn words. Wait, here are three stragglers, straight from the heart: I love Hamilton. I love it like I love New York, or Broadway when it gets it right. And this is so right. A sublime conjunction of radio-ready hip-hop (as well as R&B, Britpop and trad showstoppers), under-dramatized American history and Miranda’s uniquely personal focus as a first-generation Puerto Rican and inexhaustible wordsmith, Hamilton hits multilevel culture buttons, hard. No wonder the show was anointed a sensation before even opening. Assuming you don’t know the basics, ­Hamilton is a (mostly) rapped-through biomusical about an orphan immigrant from the Caribbean who came to New York, served as secretary to General Washington, fought against the redcoats, authored most of the Federalist Papers defending the Constitution, founded the Treasury and the New York Post and even made time for an extramarital affair that he damage-controlled in a scandal-stanching pamphle

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