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

Theater review by Raven Snook  Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but in Fat Ham redemption is what's on the menu. The outlines of James Ijames's delicious riff on Hamlet are Shakespearean, but the point and the punch lines—and most of the poetry—are the playwright’s own. Morose online college student Juicy (an endearing Marcel Spears) is upset that his newly widowed mom Tedra (Nikki Crawford) has already remarried his scheming uncle Rev (Billy Eugene Jones). His father was an abusive killer who got shanked in prison, but when Pap returns as a ghost (also played by Jones) to reveal that Rev was to blame for his death—and to demand that his son avenge his murder—the queer and clever Juicy is torn over whether to continue the family traditions of toxic masculinity and violence. But can he choose pleasure over pain?  Juicy’s spiritual journey takes place at a boisterous Southern backyard barbecue that is funny and fabulous, terrifying and touching, as seven souls—each as messy as the meat they're devouring—clash, connect and push against their expected roles. In addition to the kin that's less than kind, there are Juicy's motor-mouthed cousin Tio (Chris Herbie Holland, hilarious), whose porn obsession inspires a dreamy philosophy; church lady Rabby (Benja Kay Thomas, perfect); and Rabby’s unhappy kids, Opal (Adrianna Mitchell) and U.S. Marine Larry (Calvin Leon Smith, heartbreaking), all of whom have secrets. Over ribs and ribbing, cracked karaoke and a game of charades int

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

Broadway review by Adam Feldman A Strange Loop is a wild ride. In a Broadway landscape dominated by shows that often seem designed by corporations for audiences of focus groups, Michael R. Jackson’s musical is the defiant product of a single and singular authorial vision. This wide-ranging intravaganza takes a deep dive, often barely coming up for breath, into a whirlpool of ambition and frustration as Jackson's seeming alter ego—a queer, Black writer-composer named Usher (Jaquel Spivey)—struggles to define himself amid traps of sex, race, family, body image, religion and entertainment. It’s screamingly funny and howlingly hurt, and it’s unmissable.   Smartly directed by Stephen Brackett, the show caused a sensation in 2019 when it premiered at Playwrights Horizons; now, after multiple top-ten lists and an armful of honors (including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and a New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award), it has reached Broadway without compromising its conflicted, challenging, sometimes actively family-unfriendly content. The songs are welcomingly tuneful and clever, but as Usher warns us in the opening number: “A Strange Loop will have Black shit! And white shit! It’ll give you uptown and downtown! With truth-telling and butt-fucking!”  All of that is true—including, graphically, the last part—but it barely begins to describe the show’s discombobulating melange of anger, joy, neurosis and honesty. In this very meta musical, Usher is the only real character: the unstable “I

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

Broadway review by Adam Feldman  Reducio! After 18 months, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has returned to Broadway in a dramatically new form. As though it had cast a Shrinking Charm on itself, the formerly two-part epic is now a single show, albeit a long one: Almost three and a half hours of stage wizardry, set 20 years after the end of J.K. Rowling’s seven-part book series and tied to a complicated time-travel plot about the sons of Harry Potter and his childhood foe Draco Malfoy. (See below for a full review of the 2018 production.) Audiences who were put off by the previous version’s tricky schedule and double price should catch the magic now.  Despite its shrinking, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has kept most of its charm. The spectacular set pieces of John Tiffany’s production remain—the staircase ballet, the underwater swimming scene, the gorgeous flying wraiths—but about a third of the former text has been excised. Some of the changes are surgical trims, and others are more substantial. The older characters take the brunt of the cuts (Harry’s flashback nightmares, for example, are completely gone); there is less texture to the conflicts between the fathers and sons, and the plotting sometimes feels more rushed than before. But the changes have the salutary effect of focusing the story on its most interesting new creations: the resentful Albus Potter (James Romney) and the unpopular Scorpius Malfoy (Brady Dalton Richards), whose bond has been reconceived in a s

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

Broadway review by Adam Feldman Before we get to the specifics of the spectacular new Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s 1970 musical Company, consider for a moment what is packed in its singular title. Company, in the first place, is what we call a guest at someone else’s home, as the show’s main character—the bachelor Bobby, reconceived here as the bachelorette Bobbie (Katrina Lenk)—so often is among her married friends. Welcome though she is there, she is extraneous to their deepest happiness: Two’s company, three’s a crowd, as the saying goes. But as the other saying goes, company is what misery loves: In cajoling her to settle down, Bobbie’s friends, who sometimes envy her freedom, may be trying to trap her into the kind of commitment they feel stuck in. “You're sorry-grateful, regretful-happy” sing three of the show’s married men, and this hyphenated state of mind is characteristic of Company’s richly ambivalent portrait of marital life in New York City. A company is also, of course, a cast of actors, and Company is very much an ensemble show. Furth’s nonlinear book offers vignettes of Bobbie’s interactions with five couples and three single men she has dated; Sondheim’s coruscating, quick-witted songs weave in and out of these scenes, expanding or illustrating their themes. It's a psychological revue—a theatricalization of Bobbie’s conflicted feelings about commitment on the occasion of her 35th birthday—and that’s hard to pull off: The show requir

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

If theater is your religion and the Broadway musical your sect, you've been woefully faith-challenged of late. Venturesome, boundary-pushing works such as Spring Awakening, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and Next to Normal closed too soon. American Idiot was shamefully ignored at the Tonys and will be gone in three weeks. Meanwhile, that airborne infection Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark dominates headlines and rakes in millions, without even opening. Celebrities and corporate brands sell poor material, innovation gets shown the door, and crap floats to the top. It's enough to turn you heretic, to sing along with The Book of Mormon's Ugandan villagers: "Fuck you God in the ass, mouth and cunt-a, fuck you in the eye." Such deeply penetrating lyrics offer a smidgen of the manifold scato-theological joys to be had at this viciously hilarious treat crafted by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, of South Park fame, and composer-lyricist Robert Lopez, who cowrote Avenue Q. As you laugh your head off at perky Latter-day Saints tap-dancing while fiercely repressing gay tendencies deep in the African bush, you will be transported back ten years, when The Producers and Urinetown resurrected American musical comedy, imbuing time-tested conventions with metatheatrical irreverence and a healthy dose of bad-taste humor. Brimming with cheerful obscenity, sharp satire and catchy tunes, The Book of Mormon is a sick mystic revelation, the most exuberantly entertaining Broadway musical in years. The high q

  • Theater
  • Off-Off Broadway
  • price 1 of 4
  • East Village

Frigid New York hosts this annual showcase of subversive LGBTQ comedy, storytelling, short film and theater, curated by Jimmy Lovett. Offerings include an improvised showing of As You Will by William Shakespeare, a drag show "Come What May: An Evening with Lena Horné," a drag king special based on the lives of the so-called "Great Men of History," and "Thank You For Coming Out," an intentional space where the performers know their queerness is the superpower of the scene and not the joke.

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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

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

Broadway review by Adam Feldman POTUS begins with a four-letter c-word, and that word isn’t can’t. The running joke of Selina Fillinger’s lightly feminist political farce—which bears the annotational subtitle Or, Behind Every Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive—is that the women who populate it are all highly capable in different ways, yet they’re stuck in the orbit of an incompetent and morally bankrupt oaf who is the world’s most powerful man. Why aren’t they in charge instead? Well: “That’s the eternal question, isn’t it?” as two characters ruefully ask. (Maybe Hillary Clinton has an answer.) Mostly, the jokes in POTUS are less pointed. The White House setting is an excuse for a broad, zany, old-school comedy, which is a rarity on Broadway nowadays—especially in the form of a world premiere by a twentysomething woman. You can feel how hungry the spectators are to laugh together, and they get to do it often in this silly, fast-paced lark. It helps enormously that the production, directed by Susan Stroman (The Producers), is so well-cast. This ensemble makes an implicit argument of its own for female accomplishment: Even when their characters are floundering hopelessly, these ladies are pros. POTUS | Photograph: Courtesy Paul Kolnik The great Julie White, stage queen of the slow build, plays the Chief of Staff, a pressure cooker with her release valve rattling. Vanessa Williams—in the best performance I’ve seen her give onstage—is the poised, overqualified, und

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

Broadway review by Adam Feldman The would-be predators of the urban jungle in David Mamet’s 1975 American Buffalo are far from apex-level. Donny (Laurence Fishburne) runs a cluttered junk shop, with an eye out for possible scams on the side; young Bobby (Darren Criss), a dim bulb verging on burnout, acts as his gofer; and Teach (a terrific Sam Rockwell) is the kind of wanna-be hustler who fakes it till he takes it on the chin. (When he loses at poker, he assumes that everyone else must have cheated.) In Mamet’s engaging look at the bluffs and insecurities of American masculinity, these three men are meant to be collaborating on a coin heist, but none of them knows what he’s doing, much less what anyone else is doing. That leaves a lot of vacuum to be filled with bluster, paranoia, phony acumen and the playwright’s trademark rat-a-tat rhythms.  Directed by Neil Pepe with the expert eye for appraisal that the characters lack, this production is vastly superior to American Buffalo’s last Broadway incarnation, which ran briefly back in 2008. The play itself, which marked Mamet’s breakthrough, is as thin as a dime, but it’s got great atmospherics. Scott Pask’s set and Dede Ayite’s costumes plunge us into the shabby world of the action; seated around the thrust stage at Circle in the Square, the audience can almost smell the mix of dirt and desperation. Although not much happens in the play, which is less a thriller than a loiterer, it somehow seems fast-paced, thanks in large part

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

Broadway review by Adam Feldman  [Note: The title role in Dear Evan Hansen is currently played by Zachary Noah Piser.] What does it look like when a star is born? In the case of Ben Platt, the astonishing young actor who plays the title role in Dear Evan Hansen, it’s a bit like an actual birth: beautiful but strange and wet, tinged with confusion and danger. Evan is painfully introverted; he has no friends in high school, and even the thought of talking to a girl he likes, Zoe (the poignantly unaffected Laura Dreyfuss), makes his palms perspire. Platt’s performance extends that to his whole body; when he sings, his face often gleams with sweat. Yet the effect is not off-putting; Evan is immensely lovable, even when he makes terrible mistakes. He speaks in rushes of instant regret, as though frantically digging a hole to bury himself in, and his intense awkwardness is filtered through first-rate comic timing, high-wire dramatic acting and a gorgeously expressive tenor voice. Simply put: Platt is giving one of the greatest leading male performances I’ve ever seen in a musical, and the thrillingly modern and moving Dear Evan Hansen is worthy of it. Like its closest musical-theater relative, Next to Normal, the show takes on challenging subjects—death, grief, class, mental illness, social media, social anxiety—with unapologetic trust in the power of contemporary pop music to tell complex stories onstage. As in its Off Broadway run at Second Stage earlier this year, the musical b

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theater
  • Interactive
  • price 4 of 4
  • Chelsea

To untimely rip and paraphrase a line from Macbeth: Our eyes are made the fools of the other senses, or else worth all the rest. A multitude of searing sights crowd the spectator's gaze at the bedazzling and uncanny theater installation Sleep No More. Your sense of space and depth—already compromised by the half mask that audience members must don—is further blurred as you wend through more than 90 discrete spaces, ranging from a cloistral chapel to a vast ballroom floor. Directors Felix Barrett and Maxine Doyle, of the U.K. troupe Punchdrunk, have orchestrated a true astonishment, turning six warehouse floors and approximately 100,000 square feet into a purgatorial maze that blends images from the Scottish play with ones derived from Hitchcock movies—all liberally doused in a distinctly Stanley Kubrick eau de dislocated menace. An experiential, Choose Your Own Adventure project such as this depends on the pluck and instincts of the spectator. You can follow the mute dancers from one floor to the next, or wander aimlessly through empty spaces. I chose the latter, discovering a room lined with empty hospital beds; a leafless wood in which a nurse inside a thatched cottage nervously checks her pocket watch; an office full of apothecary vials and powders; and the ballroom, forested with pine trees screwed to rolling platforms (that would be Birnam Wood). A Shakespearean can walk about checking off visual allusions to the classic tragedy; the less lettered can just revel in the f

  • Theater
  • Shakespeare
  • price 0 of 4
  • Harlem

Classical Theatre of Harlem's annual series of free outdoor performances in Marcus Garvey Park, which it bills as Uptown Shakespeare in the Park, plays on with an Afrofuturist riff on Shakespeare's ever-popular comedy of cross purposes, cross-dressing and cross-gartered stockings. Kara Young (Clyde's) stars as the enterprising Viola, with support from an ensemble cast that includes Christina Sajous, Chivas Michael, Allen Gilmore, Israel Erron Ford, William Demeritt, Carson Elrod and Cassandra Lopez. Carl Cofield directs, and Tiffany Rea-Fisher is the choreographer.  

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  • Dance
  • Contemporary and experimental
  • price 3 of 4
  • Bushwick

Austin McCormick and his neo-Baroque troupe (Queen of Hearts) specialize in lavish pageants that combine dance, burlesque and circus arts into a heady speciality cocktail. Their latest venture promises a sexy spin on lust, envy, greed and other deadlies.  

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

Theater review by Adam Feldman Red alert! Red alert! If you’re the kind of person who frets that jukebox musicals are taking over Broadway, prepare to tilt at the windmill that is the gorgeous, gaudy, spectacularly overstuffed Moulin Rouge! The Musical. Directed with opulent showmanship by Alex Timbers, this adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 movie may be costume jewelry, but its shine is dazzling.  The place is the legendary Paris nightclub of the title, and the year is ostensibly 1899. Yet the songs—like Catherine Zuber’s eye-popping costumes—span some 150 years of styles. Moulin Rouge! begins with a generous slathering of “Lady Marmalade,” belted to the skies by four women in sexy black lingerie, long velvet gloves and feathered headdresses. Soon they yield the stage to the beautiful courtesan Satine (a sublimely troubled Karen Olivo), who makes her grand entrance descending from the ceiling on a swing, singing “Diamonds Are Forever.” She is the Moulin Rouge’s principal songbird, and Derek McLane’s sumptuous gold-and-red set looms around her like a gilded cage. After falling in with a bohemian crowd, Christian (the boyish Aaron Tveit), a budding songwriter from small-town Ohio, wanders into the Moulin Rouge like Orpheus in the demimonde, his cheeks as rosy with innocence as the showgirls’ are blushed with maquillage. As cruel fate would have it, he instantly falls in love with Satine, and she with him—but she has been promised, alas, to the wicked Duke of Monroth (Tam Mutu)

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

Broadway review by Adam Feldman Billy Crystal talks loudly and carries a big shtick in Mr. Saturday Night, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. In this musical adaptation of his 1992 film, Crystal stars as a dried-up nightclub comic named Buddy Young Jr.—an ironic name, since he’s far from young, and he’s never been anybody's buddy. He’s a tough cut of brisket, and decades after a career-ending tirade on live TV in the 1950s, he’s been reduced to grouchy gigs on the Jewish retirement-home circuit. (“Don’t get me started!” is his starting line.) But when his face mistakenly pops up in an awards-show In Memoriam sequence, Young gets a chance to revive his career from the dead. Can he seize it? Or will he be his own schlemiel yet again? Thirty years ago, Crystal wore aging makeup to play this role on film. He doesn’t need it anymore, but he never really did: He has Buddy in his bones. Crystal has been playing this alter kocker alter ego since at least Saturday Night Live in 1985, and Buddy's type of Catskills-and-Friars-Club cut-up is embedded in his comic style: He has deep affection and respect for the generation of comedians that Buddy represents, and he keeps their spirit alive in his timing, his rhythms, his soulful aggression. (“Happy anniversary. Forty-five years!” Buddy tells his wife. “Eleven of the best years of my life.”) In Mr. Saturday Night he honors their history with a sweet, slight, nostalgic musical comedy. Mr. Saturday Night | Photograph: Courtesy Matthew M

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