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Theater Review: The Sound of The Encounter

In 1969, a National Geographic photographer named Loren McIntyre made what was supposed to be a three-day expedition to Brazil’s Javari Valley in search of the Mayouruna, an indigenous, itinerant Amazonian tribe. He found them, or they found him, and over the course of several months of quasi-captivity (they seemed to regard him as both a god and a danger) he suffered near-starvation, hallucinatory delirium, and a subcutaneous infestation of maggots. You can skip the starvation and the maggots, if you like; to experience McIntyre’s existential odyssey at close range all you need is a ticket to The Encounter. The new play from Complicite — conceived, directed, and written by the company’s artistic director, Simon McBurney — opened incongruously on Broadway tonight in a production billed as the last word in immersive theater.

"Privileging the ears so exclusively diminishes other aspects of the dramatic experience." »

Grumpy Cat Is Joining the Cast of Cats

Here's some Jellicle news for Jellicle people. The infamous Grumpy Cat will apparently be joining the cast of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Cats on Friday, September 30, making her the first genuine mouser to participate in the production. Why, exactly, is an internet-celebrated cat starring in this long-running Broadway musical, and how is that even logistically possible? Your guess is as good as ours, as her specific role and involvement in the production have yet to be revealed, though a spokesman for the show told the Associated Press that she'll be "worked into the end of the show." Assuming Grumpy Cat is like every other real-life feline who refuses to follow simple commands like "Don't scratch the couch" or "Stop whining for food in the middle of the night," we're going to bet this is more of an honorary gig.

  • Posted 9/29/16 at 12:14 AM
  • On Key

DJ Khaled Fails Upward As Locksmith With New Book Unavoidably Called The Keys

Already a philosopher and a poet, DJ Khaled is giving long-form a try. Khaled announced his first book, titled The Keys (hard to believe he hasn't already used that one), on Wednesday. The Keys looks to be a personal-advice treatise of sorts, featuring "mogul talk" with successful people who can probably afford many things with keys, including Jay Z, Rick Ross, Puff Daddy, L.A. Reid, Lyor Cohen, and Arianna Huffington. Khaled put forth his mission statement on Instagram, explaining: "THEY🚷tried to hide the keys from me when I was coming up. Now I’ve mastered the keys and I want to let everybody know that these are keys from my perspective. This book will help you follow your vision as long as you have passion, dedication, blood, sweat and tears, and especially ignore when THEY try to bring you down." Of course, since this is DJ Khaled we're talking about, his advice book is also bound to be highly motivational — Khaled continued: "We the best !!!" And so, with Khaled's latest key -hain adornment, a new kingdom is come.

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Theater Review: Judith Light, Neil LaBute, and All the Ways to Say I Love You

Judith Light can do no wrong onstage, which isn’t to say she can save a play that gets so little right. Without her, All the Ways to Say I Love You, the hour-long monologue that opened MCC Theater’s new season tonight, would be very minor Neil LaBute. Not quite as minor as the similarly stunty and stunted Wrecks, performed by Ed Harris at the Public in 2006, but still too lightweight to fend for itself. Like that earlier work, which LaBute cites as a companion piece, All the Ways to Say I Love You borrows a problem — not even a theme — from Greek drama, in this case from Phaedra, of whom we’ve seen a bit too much lately. But whereas Wrecks (as the pun in its title suggests) was concerned rather narrowly with incest, All the Ways to Say I Love You is about a slightly larger and yet more ambiguous crime. That’s an improvement, if still a doodle; Light makes it a monument.

How she's trying. »

  • Posted 9/28/16 at 11:51 AM
  • Books

Dan Brown Is Writing Another Robert Langdon Book; Tom Hanks to Remain Working Forever

With the upcoming Inferno nearly exhausting Hollywood's precious reserves of Robert Langdon novels, Dan Brown has stepped in to replenish this rare natural resource. Publisher's Weekly reports that Brown is working on a fifth book about the adventures of the Harvard symbologist, called Origin, to be released next year. According to Doubleday, the book will follow Langdon as he explores "the dangerous intersection of humankind’s two most enduring questions, and the earth-shaking discovery that will answer them." Humankind's third-most-enduring question, of course, was already answered by Ashton Kutcher.

Theater Review: God’s Will and God’s Warning, in Nat Turner in Jerusalem

Narratives don’t get much more contested than that of Nat Turner, the leader of the infamous slave revolt in Southampton County, Virginia, in 1831. To begin with, our knowledge of the events is largely based on Turner’s “confessions,” which were recorded, supposedly verbatim, by a white lawyer named Thomas Gray in a series of jailhouse interviews after Turner was captured. Gray’s account may or may not be accurate; in any case it inflamed white hysteria in the South and depressed anti-slavery efforts in the North by suggesting that the rampage, in which 55 white men, women, and children were killed, was just the beginning of a violent revolution. (It was not as much noted that many more slaves with no connection to the rebellion were killed in its wake by whites.) Later, the story formed the basis of William Styron’s controversial novel The Confessions of Nat Turner, which though generally sympathetic to its protagonist also presents him as a kind of holy fool. And Nate Parker’s film The Birth of a Nation, a Turner retelling that will open wide in two weeks, is itself mired in controversy, albeit for mostly external reasons.

Mystery that terrifies. »

Some Delightful Literary Weirdo Just Bought Truman Capote’s Ashes for $45,000

In the event you happen to be a massive Truman Capote enthusiast with an equally massive disposable bank account, allow us to present you with the strange deal of a lifetime. The famed author's cremains which are stored in a Japanese wooden box and dated from August 28, 1984 have been put on sale at the Los Angeles–based auction house Julien's Auctions. The cremains are expected to fetch between $4,000 and $6,000, but if you're looking for something a little more practical, other Capote items such as photographs, pill bottles, and a polo shirt are also being auctioned off. No signed In Cold Blood limited editions, unfortunately.

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Theater Review: I Come Not to Bury The Undertaking

Like “humanistic Judaism,” the term “investigative theater” proposes an invidious distinction. All theater investigates. What the Civilians do under that rubric is merely more literal than what most companies do. Many of the their productions are created by choosing a topic and then interviewing lots of people with knowledge of it, whether expert or lay; the interviews are then edited and cobbled into a script and enacted onstage. In this way the Civilians have covered such themes as loss (in Gone Missing), the porn industry (Pretty Filthy), evangelicals (This Beautiful City), and divorce (Tales From My Parents’ Divorce). The results are usually informative, sometimes obvious, frequently becalmed, especially in comparison with the spellbinding results that Nilaja Sun, Anna Deavere Smith, Sarah Jones, and other fact-based dramatists achieve using similar methods. Is the difference that those three women work solo?

Deep meaning that doesn't always carry through to the audience. »

  • Posted 9/22/16 at 2:40 PM

These Intricate Sculptures Are Handcrafted From Thousands of Porcelain Shards

Zemer Peled creates works of art like no other. Using thousands of meticulously placed shards of porcelain, Peled constructs large-scale and small-scale sculptures akin to lifelike creatures. Her first solo exhibit, Nomad, is currently on display at the Mark Moore Gallery in Los Angeles.

Pottermore Is Now Giving You Your Patronus, Instead of Making You Do the Hard Work of Finding It Yourself

In the Harry Potter books, learning your patronus — a magical charm in the form of a spirit animal that wards off dementors — requires lots of hard work, concentration, and positive thinking. On Pottermore, though, it's as simple as taking a quiz: On Thursday, the site launched a new feature where users can discover their patronus by answering a few questions. We don't think this is quite what Arthur C. Clarke meant when he said that any sufficiently advanced technology was indistinguishable from magic, but it'll do. If you're curious, J.K. Rowling's patronus is a heron.

This American Sign Language Cover of ‘Alexander Hamilton’ Is Great

Sarah Tubert is the captain of the National Deaf Women’s Volleyball Team, and she’s got a whole lot of soul in those hands. Watch her put a new kind of life into Hamilton’s “Alexander Hamilton” and feel inspired to love the musical phenomenon in even more ways than you already do. The Facebook video of Tubert, who comes from family of performers with an actor for a father and a singer for a mother, is tagged with the Deaf West Theater, a Los Angeles–based company that stages shows containing both sign-language and spoken-word delivery. Deaf West recently earned three Tony nominations for its revival of Spring Awakening, and has done past productions of Pippin and Big River.

The Trailer for PBS’s Hamilton Documentary Will Take You to the Room Where It Happens, Without the $500 Price Tag

No need to make a pilgrimage to the Richard Rogers Theater to fulfill all of your Hamilton needs anymore. (Although, yes, that would certainly be wonderful, and all of your friends and family would still envy you for all eternity.) The trailer for PBS's Hamilton documentary, titled Hamilton's America, has arrived, and the 90-minute special will explore and chart the history of the revolutionary musical. As previously reported, the doc will include interviews with subjects such as George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Jimmy Fallon, and Questlove, as well as feature exclusive access of the show's beloved creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. Willing to wait for it until October 21?

  • Posted 9/21/16 at 2:31 PM

With ‘An Occupation of Loss,’ Taryn Simon Brings You Face-to-Face With Death

The mysterious transit of the soul to the afterlife, soothing wounds, collective bereavement, inscriptions in sound and song of thought that words cannot express: These subjects and more are beautifully brought forth in a somber, stirring, sepulchral 40-minute interactive performance, "An Occupation of Loss," organized by artist Taryn Simon in the vast darkened drill hall at the Park Avenue Armory (and being staged ten times nightly, now through September 25).

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  • Posted 9/19/16 at 2:43 PM

If This Fetus Could Talk: With Nutshell, Ian McEwan Tries (and Fails) to Fight His Own Conventionality

The narrator of Ian McEwan’s novel Nutshell is a male fetus in its third trimester, and his mother, Trudy, is sleeping with his uncle Claude and they are planning to kill his father. So the scenario resembles Hamlet, until halfway through, after the murder is committed and Trudy feels remorse, when she starts quoting Macbeth. The fetus has learned to tell his story by listening through the womb to the radio and to podcasts his mother keeps on all day. That’s why he sounds like a middle-class North London baby boomer: too much BBC Radio Four, especially Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time. It’s a shame McEwan decided to leave out whatever the plotline of The Archers was when he was writing Nutshell. Chances are it was more intriguing than what he came up with himself.

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Taylor Mac on 20 Songs That Made the Cut for A 24-Decade History of Popular Music

On September 15, Taylor Mac began the world-premiere run of A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, an immense theater-music-performance-art piece presented in three-hour segments over eight evenings. (Each decade gets about an hour.) The real extravaganza, though, is on October 8, when the artist (who gender-fluidly avoids “he” and “she” in favor of “judy”) does the whole thing in 24 hours, for an audience of folks who’ve agreed to stay for the duration. We asked Taylor Mac to explain how these 20 songs — out of the show’s 246 and the millions in American history — made the cut. 

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  • Posted 9/19/16 at 9:39 AM
  • Obit

Edward Albee Saw Life As a Cosmic Joke

Even from the beginning, Edward Albee was rarely photographed smiling — or, rather, photo editors seldom chose to print any smiling portraits that might have been taken. The truth was that he had bad teeth, but the glower went along with his reputation as an angry young man, and seemed to say: What is there worth being happy about, anyway? By the time he was an older man, when I met him, he’d grown so deeply into his implacable face that it seemed like one of the African masks that lined his Tribeca loft; even his mustache pointed down. And yet, of the foundational 20th-century American playwrights — the others were Eugene O’Neill, Arthur Miller, and Tennessee Williams — he was, in his writing, by far the funniest. All four men had essentially tragic outlooks, but Albee’s was howlingly so; he alone saw humanity’s struggle to understand itself as a cosmic joke.

"He alone saw humanity’s struggle to understand itself as a cosmic joke." »

  • Posted 9/17/16 at 5:48 PM

Theater Review: Richard Nelson’s Truer-Than-True-Life What Did You Expect?

Richard Nelson’s Gabriel family plays, like the Apple family plays before them, are studded with topical political references; Nelson sets each installment on the day of its opening and adds material nearly up to curtain time to make it absolutely current. In What Did You Expect? — the second part of the Gabriel trilogy, which opened last night at the Public Theater — the characters cite Hillary’s pneumonia, Bill’s “creepy” charm, Trump’s appearance on Jimmy Fallon, and liberal panic about the polls. But though these references sparkle brightly, they quickly fade, like tweets. Indeed, for a series subtitled Election Year in the Life of One Family, politics is oddly recessive. Whether Hillary will “be human” in the first debate has no more obvious weight in the 100-minute play than the hundreds of other matters, from historical picnics to Edith Wharton’s pornography, that rise up briefly in the conversation as another meal is prepared in the family’s well-worn kitchen.

The family faces a crisis and talks about Trump. »

  • Posted 9/17/16 at 2:25 PM
  • Obits

W.P. Kinsella, Canadian Writer of Shoeless Joe, Dead at 81

W.P. Kinsella, the Canadian writer best known for his sports fantasy novel Shoeless Joe, has died at the age of 81. In a statement, his literary agent, Carolyn Swayze, confirmed his passing and said Kinsella sought a doctor’s help to end his life in British Columbia. “He was a unique, creative, and outrageously opinionated man,” she said, choosing not to disclose what illness he was suffering from. Throughout his career, Kinsella wrote dozens of short stories and novels many of them revolving around baseball but he gained international prominence when Shoeless Joe was adapted into the film Field of Dreams starring Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones. He is survived by two daughters, three stepchildren, and four grandchildren.

You Can Now Poop in a Solid-Gold Toilet at the Guggenheim

It’s been an exciting few years for toilet innovations. Everyone who’s anyone is showing off their $10,000 high-tech bidets. Squatty potties have become dinner-party talk. And now, New York has finally gotten the public-restroom upgrade we deserve: a Kohler-style toilet made of solid 18-karat gold. Designed by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, the fully functional toilet opens for public use at the Guggenheim Museum today. Cattelan has titled the participatory sculpture “America” and says that he hopes people do not see it as a joke. Gothamist estimates the cost of the appliance to be somewhere between $1,474,592 and $2,527,872, and the Guggenheim staff says it will be cleaned every 15 minutes. The New York Times’ Randy Kennedy offers this review: “As a formal matter, I’ll say that the sculpture really looks its best when in use, sparkling so much it’s almost too bright to look at, especially during the flush, which may be a new postmodern sublime.” Wow.

The Moonlight Team Is Adapting Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad Into a Limited Series

We already know Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad is the fall’s most buzzworthy book, but now the novel is getting an even-buzzier small-screen treatment. Moonlight writer and director Barry Jenkins, along with producers Plan B and Adele Romanski who are absolutely dominating the festival circuit right now with their intimate drama are set to adapt Underground Railroad for a limited series with “a new take.” The historical, mythical novel chronicles the journey of a female slave, Cora, who attempts to escape her cruel plantation in Georgia for a better life. No network or cast is yet to be attached to the project, though Deadline reports it’s “about to hit” the television marketplace. We can’t wait.

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