The relentlessly brutal cold this winter has really gotten me down, to the point of contemplating some future when I spend winters somewhere warmer or even relocate permanently. What stops me? Among other things, I’m spoiled by the steady diet of rich, high-quality, and/or offbeat culture available in New York City. In the last three weeks, I’ve seen a motley series of nine extremely different live shows I could have seen hardly anywhere else:
Pretty Filthy, the Civilians’ docu-musical about the LA porn industry at the Abrons Arts Center;
Disgraced, Ayad Aktar’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama on Broadway;
Pour Une Âme Souveraine—A Dedication to Nina Simone, Meshell Ndegeocello’s concert at Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series;
“Love, Hate, & Comics,” an evening with Matt Groening and Lynda Barry at BAM;
Ivan Turgenev’s A Month in the Country at Classic Stage Company, starring Taylor Schilling and Peter Dinklage;
Stockhausen’s trippy, ritualistic Stimmung performed by Paul Hillier’s Theater of Voices at Zankel Hall (above);
Soho Rep’s production of An Octoroon, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s saucy adaptation of a Dion Boucicault melodrama revived at Theater for a New Audience in Brooklyn;
a return visit to Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway, with co-creator John Cameron Mitchell playing the title role wearing a knee brace after a recent injury, necessarily making the performance considerably quieter, less flashy, and more poignant than Neil Patrick Harris’s; and
All Our Happy Days Are Stupid, a banal play by Canadian novelist Sheila Heti overemphatically performed by Toronto’s Suburban Beast theater company at The Kitchen.
Once upon a time I would have written detailed commentary on each of these performances, but that’s not really what I’m doing these days. I will say that much as I admired the writing and the performances and the staging and the terrific, tuneful score (by Michael Friedman) of Pretty Filthy, I couldn’t help feeling that the show (above) was regrettably tame, both in its content and in its theatricality. I wanted it to be darker and stranger. I wish this company felt freer to color outside the lines. My taste for that kind of theater was happily sated by An Octoroon, an inventive, ambitious, imperfect show (below) not quite like any other show you’re likely to see anytime soon. I highly recommend it.