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Magician Might Be Orson Welles 101 but It’s Still a Treat

If you’re already at least a moderate fan of all-around rogue genius Orson Welles, you probably don’t need Chuck Workman’s documentary Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles.

But since when was moviegoing about need? Sturdy and rudimentary, Magician may be Welles 101, but it’s dotted liberally with TV and radio clips of the famously loquacious auteur talking, talking, and doing more talking — and how could anybody with ears and a brain resist that buttery voice, spinning out clause-laden sentences that take more twists and turns than the streets of Venice but always end, somehow, in a place that’s ravishingly articulate?

Workman traces Welles’s story from his precocious, troubled youth to his audacious stint at the Gate Theatre in Dublin to his formation, with John Houseman, of the Mercury Theatre. Magician also breaks down the troubles Welles faced throughout his career, including the heartbreak of having one film after another — The Magnificent Ambersons, Touch of Evil — sabotaged by unimaginative studios.

But it also makes the case for Welles as the father of independent filmmaking: If not for his resourcefulness, we wouldn’t have pictures like the marvelous (if, owing to distribution woes, too little seen) Shakespearean dream Chimes at Midnight.

Welles may be best known for his brash debut, Citizen Kane, but Magician suggests, rightly, that Kane put just a small fraction of Welles’s gifts to use. Even if his career sometimes faltered, in the end he lived up to the seductive, bamboozling conviction of that voice.

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Imelda May

The rise of Imelda May has been a slow climb, but a steady one. The singer began to round the Dublin burlesque circuit at 16, and even then, her fundamental traits were in place: pop-noir glamour that takes the blues as its home base, and the kind of big, theatrical voice that you’d imagine spends its nights melting hardboiled hearts in the smoky back room of some velvet-decked joint somewhere in a seedy part of town. Though she’s on the front lines of the rockabilly revival, her songs range far and wide into soul, 60s pop, and even shades of goth. May layers bubblegum catchiness over a slightly evil — and addictive — underside.

Sun., Sept. 28, 8 p.m., 2014

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Imelda May

The rise of Imelda May has been a slow climb, but a steady one. The singer began to round the Dublin burlesque circuit at 16, and even then, her fundamental traits were in place: pop-noir glamour that takes the blues as its home base, and the kind of big, theatrical voice that you’d imagine spends its nights melting hardboiled hearts in the smoky back room of some velvet-decked joint somewhere in a seedy part of town. Though she’s on the front lines of the rockabilly revival, her songs range far and wide into soul, 60s pop, and even shades of goth. May layers bubblegum catchiness over a slightly evil — and addictive — underside.

Mon., Sept. 29, 7 p.m., 2014

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IN BLOOM

Who doesn’t have fond memories of those 24 hours in Dublin with Leopold? Walking, talking, brawling, philosophizing, and finally returning home to kiss Molly on the bum and call it a day. Nearly a century after the publication of Ulysses, book nerds around the world still remember James Joyce and his work around this time each June. This year, at the 33rd Annual Bloomsday on Broadway celebration focuses on another great achievement by the Irish author: Dubliners at 100 years ripe. Cynthia Nixon, Malachy McCourt, Marin Ireland, Column McCann and others read from the beloved story collection with soprano Lisa Flanagan performing songs from the stories between readings. For more Bloomsday revelry, grab a pint and listen to readings from the novel at Ulysses Folk House Pub on picturesque Stone Street, or, for a feminist take on the odyssey, follow Clarissa Dalloway as she leads an eight-hour multi-site reading of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway to various locations around Brooklyn.

Mon., June 16, 7 p.m., 2014

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The Dublin Guitar Quartet+Brasil Guitar Duo+David Leisner+Benjamin Verdery

The Dublin Guitar Quartet, Brasil Guitar Duo, and solo guitarists David Leisner and Benjamin Verdery will pluck, pluck, pluck their 64 strings during this evening devoted to guitar music “of repetitive structures,” AKA minimalism. The program includes Philip Glass’s Fourth Knee Play and String Quartet No. 3 (Mishima), Steve Reich’s Nagoya Guitars, Leisner’s Ghosting, and Ingram Marshall’s Soepa.

Thu., March 27, 7:30 p.m., 2014

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The Night Alive Tempts You to Call It a Kitchen Sink Drama

Conor McPherson’s The Night Alive, imported from the Donmar Warehouse to the Atlantic, tempts you to call it a kitchen sink drama. But the grubby Dublin flat (lovingly detailed by Soutra Gilmour) in which it takes place doesn’t feature anything so luxurious as a kitchen. There is, however, a suitably grimy sink.

The forceful Ciarán Hinds — his Easter Island features blunted beneath a greasy mustache and sideburns — stars as Tommy, a man no longer very young or angry, eking out a marginal living in the room his uncle grudgingly rents. This tenuous existence grows more precarious when he takes in Aimee (an understated Caoilfhionn Dunne), an occasional prostitute beaten by her boyfriend.

McPherson began his career as a writer of monologues. The early plays struggled to meld multiple voices. But he has surmounted that former difficulty, and long passages of The Night Alive fluidly fuse the funny, the melancholy, and the cruel. McPherson also supplies moments of truly startling violence, which is more terrifying because it seems more real than his contemporaries’ guignol antics.

Yet if individual scenes and speeches persuade, the overall piece proves less credible. The drama takes a late turn from the grimly naturalistic to the serenely metaphysical. Why should a play about lives so pointedly disordered end so cleanly?

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TRANSATLANTICISM

TransAtlantic (Random House), the sprawling new novel by Colum McCann, might just deliver the grand scope promised in its title. The story spans not only the ocean but 150 years of history in the process. First, in 1845, Frederick Douglass shows up in Dublin on a lecture tour to discover the city ravaged by famine. In 1919 Jack Alcock and Teddy Brown prepare to set off from Newfoundland on the first nonstop transatlantic flight. Finally, in 1998, U.S. Senator George Mitchell attempts conflict resolution in Belfast. We trust in McCann, who has made his own leap from Ireland to New York, to connect their stories. Tonight he will journey trans-East River to present an alfresco reading as part of the Books Beneath the Bridge series. Fellow novelist Bill Cheng will join McCann in an outdoor conversation, Q&A, and book-signing.

Mon., July 22, 7 p.m., 2013

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Don’t Call What Richard Did “Bergmanesque”

The director Ingmar Bergman shot his masterpieces Persona and Through a Glass Darkly and several other films in and around his house on Fårö, an island off the coast of Sweden. In Irish director Lenny Abrahamson’s moody What Richard Did, a family beach house on the coast of Dublin strongly evokes Bergman’s beloved home, one of many elements that makes the film feel like a Bergman homage without earning the clunky label “Bergmanesque.” Based on Kevin Power’s novel Bad Day in Blackrock, the film follows Dublin teenager Richard (Jack Reynor, giving a performance worth savoring before he stars in Transformers 4) as his soul unravels after he does something very bad in a moment of passion. There’s far more teenage boozing, swearing, and fucking than ol’ Ingmar would have included, even if he could have gotten away with it. (It’s set in modern-day Dublin, after all.) But many Bergman signifiers are present in tone, particularly Richard’s struggle with his guilt in a universe that seems indifferent to concepts like “right” and “wrong.” Notably, Richard’s father (Lars Mikkelsen) is established as Scandinavian; it doesn’t factor directly into the plot, other than to perhaps suggest that, like Bergman’s Swedish protagonists, Richard was born with the emotional fortitude necessary to survive such long, dark nights of the soul.

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The Rolling Stones: Charlie Is My Darling—Ireland 1965

Excruciating memories of those lizardy old guys croaking out “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” in Martin Scorsese’s Shine a Light (2008) will be banished from your brain while watching this lustrous restored chronicle (overseen by Mick Gochanour) of the Rolling Stones playing Dublin and Belfast in early September 1965, right before the band hit superstardom. Originally directed by Peter Whitehead, tapped by Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham to record the band’s Irish tour after being impressed by the filmmaker’s first doc, Charlie Is My Darling captures the quintet at their most impossibly vernal and beautiful. (Mick, Keith, Brian, and Charlie were 24 or younger; Bill was 28.) Onstage, peacocking Mick rebuttons his cuff while singing “Time Is on My Side”; for the next number, “It’s All Right,” the kids in the front rows go crazy, tackling their idols to the ground. In between concerts, each bandmate has a few turns expounding on fame and their future in front of the camera, but not as many as Jagger, whose plummy vowels and jokes about British Romantic poets remind you that he was a student at the London School of Economics only a few years prior. “There isn’t any secret—it’s all obvious,” the lead singer retorts to some offscreen query about the key to the group’s appeal. This film proves him right.

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Albert Nobbs

Fulfilling a mission that has consumed her for almost two decades, Glenn Close—as producer, co-writer, and lead—brings to the screen the titular character, a woman who passes as a man in 1890s Ireland, a role for which she won an Obie in 1982. The result of this passion project? Getting to look like Bruce Jenner in a bowler and high starched collar. Close’s prosthetic makeup renders her face too immobile, a marked contrast with her unfixed accent; both highlight the pitfalls of a star’s idée fixe. It’s a shame, because the material—based on a novella by George Moore published in the 1927 collection Celibate Lives—deserves better. A punctilious butler at a Dublin hotel, Albert, who began his gender illusion at age 14 for economic and physical survival, can no longer remember the name he was born with. A friendship with housepainter Hubert Page (Janet McTeer), also deploying an F-to-M masquerade but enjoying a not-so-celibate life with a seamstress spouse, convinces lonely, pence-pinching Albert to pursue his dream of petite bourgeois propriety: opening a tobacco shop and trying to persuade a pretty hotel co-worker (Mia Wasikowska) to be his bride. But the characters’ daring choices, made so as not to live “without decency”—that is, as penniless, unattached women in the late-Victorian era—are always undercut by Close’s too-conventional stunt performance.