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Stunning and Impossible, Tarkovsky’s Final Film, The Sacrifice, Returns to the Big Screen

Upon its release 28 years ago, Andrei Tarkovsky’s final film, The Sacrifice, was variously called “stunningly beautiful” and “impossible to sit through” by critics. It is both.

Tarkovsky’s two-and-a-half-hour meditation — on the death of intellectual curiosity in the modern age and, ultimately, on death itself — unfolds in only two settings: a sprawling manor as spartan and shadowy as the da Vinci frescoes showcased in the opening credits; and a strip of seaside-hugging, pastoral acreage.

Sven Nykvist’s prolonged wide shots of these exquisitely gloomy backdrops — there’s nary a close-up in the entire film — dwarf Tarkovsky’s already impotent characters. At the forefront of The Sacrifice is that most annoying of ironies: a windbag who prattles on about the futility of words, yet still keeps on talking. This dour essayist, Alexander (Erland Josephson), is thrown a birthday party by his melodramatic wife, Adelaide (Susan Fleetwood),his mute son “Little Man” (guess if he talks by film’s end), and several glum friends. Punctuating all the Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, and Biblical references are shots of low-flying jets rattling the china and radio reports of impending Armageddon, which prompt Alexander to promise God he’ll sacrifice his house and family in exchange for restored order.

Even the kinetic scenes here are rather heavy-handed (a lengthy house fire, a levitating sex scene) and can’t revive the film from its bookish stupor. This new 35mm restoration will surely render Tarkovsky’s bare-bones visuals more compelling to behold. But Tarkovsky’s philosophizing will only intrigue those who still quiver at the shopworn lament that advancing technology is destroying the world.

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NO HOLDS BARD

Depending on his ever-changing constellation of collaborators, director Robert Wilson’s exquisitely visual theater can get lyrical, abrasive, or dreamy. Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Wilson’s acclaimed 2009 staging, has an especially high-voltage creative team: poetry by William Shakespeare, music by Rufus Wainwright, and acting by Germany’s historic Berliner Ensemble. To celebrate the fourth centennial of the sonnets’ publication, dramaturg Jutta Ferbers selected 25 poems from 154 in the canon; Wainwright created an original score that ranges from cabaret to rock, classical, and medieval music. Famously, some of the Bard’s poems express desire for men as well as for women. Wilson extends that fluidity on stage, where women play the male characters and men perform as women. That should make for a sublimely re-gendered reverie of cupids, queens, and “Dark Ladies.”

Thursdays-Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Starts: Oct. 9. Continues through Oct. 12, 2014

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New York Theater Takes a Fresh Look at the Classics This Season

Could 2014 be the season when New York reinvigorates its classical theater at long last? There’s plenty of red meat for those who like big names and revivals, starting with Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman’s comic chestnut You Can’t Take It With You, starring James Earl Jones. A remounting of The Real Thing, by less-than-obscure author Tom Stoppard, will star Ewan McGregor, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Cynthia Nixon. Star branding prevails in progressive precincts across the East River, too—for instance, BAM’s Next Wave festival features familiar mainstays Rufus Wainwright and Robert Wilson teaming up for Shakespeare’s Sonnets.

See also: The 2014 Fall (Arts) Issue: An Index

There also promise to be significant advances in repertory. Too often, theaters limit homegrown productions of non-Shakespeare classics to a handful of Molière, Ibsen, and Chekhov favorites. But this season Theatre for a New Audience expands the perimeter, offering a rare full staging of Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, Parts I and II (starring John Douglas Thompson), not to mention The Valley of Astonishment, a version of Farid Attar’s epic mystical poem directed by the cosmopolitan master Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne.

Other classics reflect a fresh sense of theater’s engagement. The Public Theater will premiere Todd Almond’s musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale as part of Public Works, which brings together approximately 200 professionals and local community members for the collaboration. LaMama unveils its Earth Season, looking at Hurricane Sandy’s implications with three very different versions of The Tempest (from the Italian company Motus, South Korea’s Mokwha Repertory Company, and New York’s own Karin Coonrod).

For bold innovation with classics on a larger scale, New York usually needs international aid — and this autumn it’s on the way. Among many others, Ireland’s Pan Pan Theatre supplies BAM’s Next Wave festival with Embers, based on Samuel Beckett’s 1959 radio play. St. Ann’s Warehouse will host Poland’s TR Warszawa (who bring their knockout version of Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis), and the U.K.’s Kneehigh for a musical version of Tristan & Yseult (based on an ancient Cornish epic).

Of course, not everything springs from poems, scripts, or texts. The French Institute Alliance Française’s citywide festival Crossing the Line will offer encounters with some of the finest interdisciplinary experimenters: This year, festivalgoers can meet 600 Highwaymen’s Employee of the Year (with songs by David Cale and an ensemble of young women under the age of 11), catch a Xavier Le Roy retrospective, or climb into seven beds alongside a performer at various public locations in Fernando Rubio’s Everything By My Side. Who knows which new concoction will one day look like a classic that premiered all the way back in autumn 2014?

Trade Practices
Performances begin August 31

Business is booming for immersive, site-specific theater. At their best, such projects make hidden parts of the city visible, illuminating architecture and history. For Trade Practices, an episodic theater event produced by HERE Art Center with input from a coterie of downtown artists, you’ll need to board a ferry to Governors Island. There, visitors will explore a series of rooms in Pershing Hall while participating in the life of a fictional currency company. Audiences discover economic values from the perspective of owners, managers, marketers, or workers—and surely that’s worth a boat ride and more. Pershing Hall, Governors Island, here.org

E Pluribus
Performances begin September 4

Last year, the Obie Award-winning Theater:Village festival brought together four small companies (Axis, Cherry Lane, New Ohio, and Rattlestick theaters) to present five works by playwright Lucy Thurber in tandem. This year, the fledgling alliance offers E Pluribus, four new plays contemplating American diversity. Randy Sharp’s musical Solitary Light deals with the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. Lisa Ramirez’s To the Bone looks at immigrant women working in poultry plants. It takes many playwrights to evoke Jackson Heights’ polyglot in I Like to Be Here, while Juárez: A Documentary Mythology takes an up-close look at the U.S. border. Theater:Village, various locations, theatervillage.com

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Performances begin September 10

What do you do when you’re 15 and possess extraordinary powers of intelligence, but are accused of killing your neighbor’s dog? Duh —you try to solve the mystery yourself, and maybe unlock your own family’s secrets at the same time. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a West End hit originally launched (like War Horse) from London’s National Theatre, promises to make a visually thrilling theatrical journey out of Mark Haddon’s bestselling 2003 novel. Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 243 West 47th Street, curiousonbroadway.com

Scenes from a Marriage
Performances begin September 12

Sure, you might know director Ivo van Hove’s stylish and arousing versions of classics (Roman Tragedies) and midcentury naturalism (The Little Foxes, A Streetcar Named Desire). But until now, the Flemish master hasn’t explored his most abiding interest—stage interpretations of 20th-century cinema—with a New York ensemble. For his seventh collaboration with the New York Theatre Workshop, van Hove mounts Ingmar Bergman’s 1974 film Scenes from a Marriage—and makes us get up off our duffs. To track Johan and Marianne’s relationship over time, viewers will move from room to room, taking a gentle walk from youthful bloom to autumnal age. New York Theatre Workshop, 79 East 4th Street, nytw.org

On the Town
Performances begin September 20

There’s something about old-timey Broadway shows that can make you love New York all over again—or at least some idyllic version of it. On the Town, created 70 years ago by Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Jerome Robbins, may just be the NYC musical, with three lusty sailors swaggering from Coney Island to Carnegie Hall. John Rando’s revival, which will be housed in the atmospheric Lyric Theatre, boasts the largest live orchestra on Broadway, delivering standards like “New York, New York” and “Lonely Town.” The Bronx is up, the Battery’s down, and the brass is back on the Great White Way. Lyric Theatre, 213 West 42nd Street, onthetownbroadway.com

Shakespeare’s Sonnets
Performances begin October 7

Summer’s lease hath all too short a date. But October offers some special poetry of its own: Director Robert Wilson and dramaturge Jutta Ferbers have chosen 25 Shakespeare sonnets to stage with the Berliner Ensemble. All are set to an original score by Rufus Wainwright that blends classical, pop, and cabaret. Expect stanza after stanza of Dark Ladies, queens, fools, and cupids—and possibly dreamlike magic and a brush with immortality. Thy eternal summer shall not fade. BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, bam.org

Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2, and 3)
Performances begin October 14

A new play by Suzan-Lori Parks counts as a historic occasion. Parks — perhaps the most inventive American dramatist today — places herself in a dizzying dialogue with history via her evocative and twisty wordplay. Father Comes Home from the Wars consists of three dramas in a single evening, each set at a different point in the Civil War. Ostensibly, we follow a slave, a Confederate colonel, and others across the battlefield. But if this is anything like her previous forays (The America Play), we’ll be going places far, far beyond—maybe even taking an adventurous plunge into what Parks calls the Great Whole of History. Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street, publictheater.org

4.48 Psychosis
Performances begin October 16

Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis can be a haunting work, fashioned as it was by the playwright as she underwent treatment for severe depression. True, her subsequent suicide hovers over this fluid, nonlinear text. But if you suspect it’s too dark to handle, think again. Kane’s startling visions reawakened European drama in the 1990s for a reason. I saw this version, by the acclaimed Polish ensemble TR Warszawa (directed by Grzegorz Jarzyna), in Poland several years ago, and can report that it’s exciting and moving. An astonishing performance by Magdalena Cielecka lies at its troubled and racing heart. St. Ann’s Warehouse, 29 Jay Street, Brooklyn, stannswarehouse.org

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Too E-Z Is the Head That Wears the Crown

One of the many obstacles to a truly great American classical theater tradition is the way we reflexively default to contemporary naturalism. Actors, often trained to assimilate a role into personal experience, work to relate characters created centuries ago to people like themselves and those they observe around them. But are they really like us? Directors hope immediacy will bridge the gaps between the empires of Elizabeth and Obama, making a play transcend time. But hundreds of years ago, social rules, religious convictions, and speech codes were different. Embracing the strangeness and formality of a venerable play (and its language) might work better than trying to tease out its familiar qualities; by definition the latter approach would seem guaranteed to flatten or obscure the script’s true power.

Daniel Sullivan’s uninspiring production of King Lear, the Public Theater’s final Free Shakespeare in the Park presentation, is a good example of this diminishing effect. Visually there’s plenty to suggest a chapter in human history we can’t relate to: Men wear earth-toned tunics and battle with swords; women are decked out in draping dresses. We stare at a giant, upstage wall with a burlap texture and a medieval look, punctured by what look like hundreds of large needles. (When the lighting changes, this structure evokes a forest of trees.) Rugged, wooden posts and platforms call to mind a rustic, preindustrial society of warriors.

Yet Lear’s daughters, Goneril (Annette Bening) and Regan (Jessica Hecht), are poised, commanding, and utterly contemporary American women in their mannerisms and speech. When they rebuke their father for his friends’ rowdiness, there’s little sense of generational transgression or the shifting of the political power dynamic. Characters strut and pace aimlessly or point and gesture with contemporary verve, even as they speak in iambic pentameter. It’s a problem spread across this production, whose A-list cast rarely delves into the tragedy’s epic dimensions. That sells King Lear short. Shakespeare offers a play about more than domestic discord; it’s also a magnificent reflection on power and its permutations over time, on madness, and on numerous other themes that electrify the verse.

John Lithgow labors in the title role but never quite finds the stature of a disenfranchised monarch — a king betrayed by his own family and then redeemed when it’s too late. The star struggles to shake a self-conscious, slightly goofy quality that inhabits his persona. And because we never see him in truly regal command in early scenes, it’s hard to ignore the disjuncture when he later howls with fury on the rain-soaked heath.

So it’s not Lithgow who supplies us with a glimpse of Shakespeare’s mind-bending cataclysm. Chukwudi Iwuji — first as Gloucester’s wronged son Edgar and (especially) later as the deranged hermit Poor Tom (Edgar’s disguise and alter ego) — steals the thunder. Iwuji delivers an arresting performance, leaping headfirst into grotesque distortion when Edgar “becomes” Poor Tom, guiding the exiled Lear through the countryside. Wild-eyed and writhing on the ground, Iwuji gives us a vision of loyalty as insanity. He bores through to the drama’s inner layers and lets us hear his words as more than just something to recite with contemporary flair. Here’s hoping we see him in another major classical role soon.

In the meantime, we can only wish this production had more of Iwuji’s investment in unhinging his character from realism and wringing out every word.

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Ever Hear the One About Hamlet’s Mother?

“People should take Gertrude seriously,” declares the queen, speaking of herself in the third person. Howard Barker’s 2002 rendering of Hamlet defends the title character (Hamlet’s mother), by rethinking her tongue-tied collusion in her husband’s murder. In Barker’s abstract version, that perfidious deed — which spurs Shakespeare’s Hamlet to revenge — becomes a mere trifle in a wider moral catastrophe. Barker’s Gertrude (Pamela J. Gray) is more empowered and garrulous, but she’s still an enigma. Her verbal “cry” — heard and discussed throughout — isn’t for herself, however; it expresses the lust, betrayal, and agony driving a corrupt society. It’s everything she doesn’t say in Shakespeare, and then some.

Gertrude: The Cry marks the tenth Barker play Potomac Theatre has tackled, and each summer there are rewards for soldiering in their basement bunker. For one, it’s a rare chance to see the work of a playwright essential to modern drama. For another, David Barlow gives a superb performance as the puerile, adolescent Hamlet, destroyed by a fixation on his mother’s bad-girl sexuality. Perhaps because the prince has such a penchant for self-theatricalizing, however, it sometimes feels as if Barlow is the only actor pushing Barker’s dense dialogue to a truly heightened sphere. Richard Romagnoli’s monochrome staging lets too much dead air hang over this heady post-tragedy. We quickly apprehend the damaged world Barker articulates, but we never glimpse the anarchic theater he envisioned to embody it.

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THIS AMERICAN LIFE

Forget all those conspiracy theories about the Earl of Oxford; only a drinkin,’ brawlin,’ pub-dwellin’ man could have penned the potty-mouthed jokes that liven up even the Bard’s darkest dramas. In America we like our beer cold and our playwrights belligerent, so as far as we’re concerned, William has always been one of us. The new anthology Shakespeare in America traces his influence on every level of our national culture from poets to presidents. Tonight, to celebrate the book’s release, James Earl Jones returns to the Delacorte to read from Othello, reprising the role he first played here 50 years ago. Also appearing are Alec Baldwin (fresh off his Fifth Avenue biking arrest and subsequent hissyfit), performing scenes from Macbeth, and Steven Pasquale, belting songs from West Side Story (that counts as Shakespeare, right?), as well as readings by F. Murray Abraham, Elizabeth Alexander, E.L. Doctorow, Cynthia Nixon, and many more.

Mon., June 30, 8 p.m., 2014

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Free Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing Is Well Worth a Listen

Governor Leonato’s estate in Sicily is a serious rumor farm with a whole lot of nothing going on. Actually, make that a whole lot of “noting” in the Elizabethan sense, meaning watching and overhearing; Shakespeare spins that double meaning in his title and throughout Much Ado About Nothing. In Jack O’Brien’s Public Theater production at Central Park’s Delacorte, would-be lovers constantly eavesdrop to learn who might fancy or betray them. They hide in hedges, peek through orange groves, and crouch behind shooting stalks in the garden, hoping to learn the truth behind appearances.

You might wonder why anyone in the sun-baked province of Messina would confide a secret, much less bear his or her heart, when every tree and trellis seems to have ears. Leonato’s household thrives on endless “ado”; its sharp-witted residents dine on hearsay and innuendo, and they deal with suspicions by cooking up elaborate ruses, disguises, and tests. Chalk up their foibles to the lush fertility of Sicily. It’s in the air. Set designer John Lee Beatty underscores this possibility by situating the action around a lovely villa’s terrace, with big facing windows, swaying palms, and a vegetable patch where beautiful Italian things sprout.

This straightforward production doesn’t set out to rock anyone’s aesthetics, and it doesn’t need to: It offers a perfectly pleasant summer romp in the Delacorte’s open-air amphitheater. As Benedick and Beatrice, caustic rivals tricked into declaring their mutual affection, Hamish Linklater and Lily Rabe make a surprisingly wholesome duo. Rabe, a Shakespeare in the Park veteran, brings her husky voice and a world-weary front that melts into tenderness when Beatrice realizes she holds the key to Benedick’s heart. Linklater gives Benedick an air of mirthful youth; we watch this bearded bachelor drop his defensive jocularity when he, in turn, discovers he’s “horribly in love.” His railing against marriage in the comedy’s first half turns out to have been a single guy’s mask of pride.

The supporting cast has stronger and weaker players, and you sometimes wish everyone would just embrace the effluence of Shakespeare’s text rather than handling it as American naturalism with ostensibly spontaneous pauses and stutters. (The over-miked sound system might be more hindrance than aid to verbal expression.) As Dogberry, the malaprop-prone local constable, John Pankow succeeds utterly with the character’s feisty officiousness but throws away many of his comically misfiring words. On the other hand, Ismenia Mendes and Jack Cutmore-Scott navigate Hero and Claudio’s confused dead-and-alive courtship with linguistic forthrightness, not to mention good looks and sturdy bearing.

The evening has potent tonics: Jane Greenwood’s gorgeous rustic masquerade costumes help us see Shakespeare’s romancing as a series of raised and lowered masks. And there’s music, sweet music: Balthasar (Steel Burkhardt) sings a charming basso profundo ode to deception with Don Pedro (Brian Stokes Mitchell), and courtiers with accordion, guitar, and strings serenade from the balcony at just the right moments, smoothing over lovers’ abrupt changes of heart. Not that it’s hard to go with the flow. Much Ado may be Shakespeare’s great comedy of romantic reversals, but when you’re sitting under June skies at the Delacorte, even the craziest love-struck “nothing” feels entirely in place.

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Kenneth Branagh’s Macbeth Is More Screened Than Staged at the Armory

We urgently want Shakespeare productions to have grandeur and mythic proportions. We long for them to steep us in a cultural source we’re no longer truly connected to, on the assumption that the experience will ennoble. For a moment, Rob Ashford and Kenneth Branagh’s staging of Macbeth at the Armory takes us right to the threshold of those expectations.

In fact, we’re standing in an actual portal when it happens: Having been divided into Scottish clans in the lobby, each audience-tribe gets ushered to the great doors of the 55,000-square-foot military hall. An ominous bell clangs three times, summoning open the gates; as they part and reveal with a grand coup de théâtre, we gaze across vast, foggy moors to cloaked figures that beckon us toward giant stone ruins.

In that instant, you might think you’ve arrived at the end of a long quest for epic, transformative Shakespeare. Then the play starts.

Prerecorded drums that could underscore an action film’s trailer announce a stagy battle scene. Warriors clash swords on a muddy battlefield in celestial light. Rain pours from the ceiling. It’s spectacular, but with the dull, familiar imagery of a blockbuster. Suddenly we’re off, watching a conventional British production — shouting, declaiming, backslapping — where the mammoth space mostly serves as cinematic backdrop. The production, created in 2013 for the Manchester International Festival, is for the most part a traditional tights-and-tunic staging, with a Hollywood feel and hints of highland lore, Braveheart with (much) better writing.

Christopher Oram’s set places enormous ancient altars at either end of a long aisle between spectators. The heaven-and-hell bookends can yield gorgeous visuals — the weird sisters predicting doom from crevice perches, Lady Macbeth (Alex Kingston) up top, enacting her mad scene — and the classical-amphitheater aura gestures to an “immersive theater” experience. But performers must traipse up and down the lengthy corridor, which quickly becomes a liability.

Revered for his ease with dense verse, Branagh gives a commanding but skin-deep star turn as the tortured general who stoops to murder to ascend the throne. Perhaps it’s because we rarely see Macbeth’s face: From a distance, it’s hard to discern depth. Macbeth struts and barks and propels himself into bloodletting, but he only seems to take things in when he’s given a soliloquy. When this confident ruler suddenly hallucinates ghosts and floating daggers, or complains that his ears ring with witches’ prophecies, it’s abrupt.

Kingston renders Lady Macbeth a blonde pragmatist, memorably manipulating her husband’s lust and maintaining political poise as he unravels. The paint-faced witches are a writhing, contorting highlight, to the point where you wish they’d been more fully integrated into the production.

Similarly, the directors underline the Scottish Play’s Scottish dimensions, but not quite enough to give it conceptual legs. Would that we could see King Duncan’s slaying as a violation of ethnic kinship as well as a mortal transgression against nature. But that would ask more from a production whose “vaulting ambition” is sufficient to satisfy Lady M. Ultimately, this lavish show provides a Shakespearean experience that’s too much like the movies.

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Nine Notable NYC Theater Events This Summer

Summerworks 2014


Performances begin May 30

Bold new plays need a place to chill in our warming climate, and Clubbed Thumb unfailingly provides one with its annual Summerworks series. The programmers generally prefer idiosyncratic young voices to established ones, and this season features three freshly inked scripts from adventurous dramatists: 41-DERFUL, written and directed by Jenny Schwartz, I’m Pretty Fucked Up by Ariel Stess, and 16 Words Or Less by Peggy Stafford. The Wild Project, 195 East 3rd Street, clubbedthumb.org

Macbeth


Performances begin May 31

Tired of the scheming Thane of Cawdor and the endless parade of screen celebs who come to play him in New York? Well, there’s nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so: This time none other than Kenneth Branagh lionizes the title role for his New York stage debut, and co-directs with Rob Ashford. This production crosses the Atlantic from the UK’s Manchester International Festival to the Park Avenue Armory’s 55,000-square-foot Drill Hall, where big battle scenes will unfurl across a traverse stage—bloody and spooky like Shakespeare wanted it to be. Park Avenue Armory, 643 Park Avenue, armoryonpark.org

Holler If Ya Hear Me


Performances begin June 2

2Pac: The Musical? Holler If Ya Hear Me isn’t a bio-drama, but a Broadway homage “inspired by” the music and lyrics of late great hip-hopper Tupac Shakur. It’s a sure bet that inner city lives, loves, and struggles will find poetic justice on the Great White Way. The producers are installing stadium-style seating in the house, and the show’s team includes director Kenny Leon (The Mountaintop) and choreographer Wayne Cilento (Wicked). Palace Theatre, 1564 Broadway, palacetheatreonbroadway.com

Much Ado About Nothing


Performances begin June 3

Don’t you hate when your friends trick you into falling wildly in love in the middle of summer? Sometimes it’s fun to watch it happen to other people, though, in this case Shakespeare’s Beatrice and Benedick in the middle of Sicily (okay, Central Park). Lily Rabe and Hamish Linklater star in Jack O’Brien’s production for Shakespeare in the Park. Next up in the park’s free summer Bard works: Daniel Sullivan’s staging of King Lear, with John Lithgow in the title role. Delacorte Theater in Central Park, publictheater.org

Comic Book Theater Festival


Performances begin June 3

City-saving superheroes, ninja turtles, and a werewolf who moonlights as President of the United States—all will leap in a single bound off the color page and onto the Brooklyn stage. This is the second iteration of the Brick’s incubator festival, which presents experiments in live performance sourced in comics and graphic novels. Just as seriously fun is Game Play, the Brick’s series of innovative events exploring video gaming and theater, which starts July 11. You never know what’ll happen, so plug in your mental console and press go. The Brick, 579 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn, bricktheater.com

The Old Woman


Performances begin June 22

Maybe you’ve heard of Mikhail Baryshnikov and Willem Dafoe, who star in this dark mindbender about a couple and their unwanted visitor. The director — Robert Wilson — might also ring a bell for lovers of exquisitely imagistic theater spectacles. But the real reason to catch this absurdity-tinged show is to encounter the least well-known name: The project is adapted from the recently rediscovered oeuvre of Danill Kharms, an avant-garde Soviet poet whose visions promise to confound and ravish. BAM Opera House, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, bam.org

Lincoln Center Festival


Performances begin July 7

What’s new and happening in the classical world? This season’s stalwart Lincoln Center Festival has a number of unmissables, starting with Japan’s revered Heisei Nakamura-za company (founded in the 17th century), which arrives with a tale of a villainous samurai. In August, Cate Blanchett and Isabelle Huppert will add to the sidewalks’ sizzle as power-plotting siblings in Genet’s head-spinning drama The Maids. Various locations, lincolncenterfestival.org

Mount Tremper Arts
Summer Festival 2014



Performances begin July 25

How often have we fled the concrete jungle for greenery and lakes, only to find ourselves missing the pleasures of town, such as cutting-edge theater? That problem is nicely solved at Mount Tremper Arts in the Catskills, about a two-hour drive from the city. This summer’s season offers a collaboration by playwright Lisa D’Amour (Detroit) and The Theatre of a Two-Headed Calf; a world premiere by 600 Highwaymen; and Cynthia Hopkins’s A Living Documentary. 647 South Plank Road in Mount Tremper, NY, mounttremperarts.org

Bootycandy


Performances begin August 22

Robert O’Hara’s satirical play Bootycandy assembles a handful of short sketches about growing up gay and black into a fresh panorama of American life. O’Hara’s previous works—starting with Insurrection: Holding History—have proven engaging, funny, and provocative. Playwrights Horizons’ production, directed by the author, will call us back to summer school for a cultural sex-ed survey with disorientating dimensions and depths. Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd Street, playwrightshorizons.org

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Talib Kweli

Talib Kweli is nothing if not prolific. Six months after releasing Prisoner of Conscious, he returned with Gravitas, which as the name would imply, had some lyrical ballast. The socially conscious rapper and co-founder of Black Star has a Brooklyn pedigree and a poetic sensibility that mixes rhythmic complexity and virtuosic flow with a background in political activism, dropping knowledge wrapped in a combustible beat. In a recent study that compared Shakespeare’s vocabulary with hip-hop’s leading lights, Kweli barely fell short of the once-controversial Bard. The comparison might be hyperbolic, but it’s enough to parlay his street cred for some Brooklyn lit cred.

Sat., May 17, 1:30 p.m., 2014