Thursday through Saturday Paramount Center 559 Washington St., Boston $25-$49, 617-824-8400 www.artsemerson.org
New York-based playwright Ethan Lipton presents this “theatrical song cycle”, in which he plays a fictionalized version of himself, beset with the prospect of his employers, in a savage parody of the insecurity of the modern workplace, moving to another planet. The music draws from all the wellsprings of American song—folk, blues, country, jazz—plus lounge, presumably because it’s funny.
This show from the performance duo They Gotta Be Secret Agents integrates puppetry, humor, film, acrobatics and dance to explore the humble handwritten letter as a dying art form in an age of instant communication. Among the themes is the physical journey of a letter, which, unlike an email, has already been on an untold adventure before it’s ever read.
The Actors’ Shakespeare Project presents Chekhov’s final play, telling the story of an aristocratic family struggling with the ever-deepening obsolescence of their way of life. Like Shakespeare, Chekhov had a vision of human life simultaneously comic and tragic, and “the Cherry Orchard” is no exception, forcing each director to navigate its complex ambiguity in a unique way.
Film noir is one of those genres you’re more likely be introduced to though parody or homage than the real thing, but if you’re looking for the real thing you can’t do much better than this 1947 example starring Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth. Its famous climax involves a metaphorically rich shoot-out in a hall of mirrors—classic Wellesian psychodrama.
Soundtrack by Herbie Hancock
Sunday and Monday Harvard Film Archive 24 Quincy St., Cambridge $9-$12, 617-495-4700 hcl.harvard.edu/hfa
This two-part series features two films with—wait for it—soundtracks by Herbie Hancock. Sunday’s pick is Michelangelo Antonioni's 1966 thriller “Blow Up”, and Monday’s is Ivan Dixon’s politically provocative 1973 film “The Spook Who Sat by the Door”. Hancock, in town through the end of March to deliver Harvard’s 2014 Norton Lectures, will appear in person at the latter screening.
This much-lauded singer, a native of Benin, is one of Africa’s biggest stars internationally. Her diverse influences come from all over, and she sings in four languages, plus one of her own invention. This adaptability may explain her absurdly wide-ranging list of collaborators, including such strange bedfellows as Branford Marsalis, Phillip Glass and Bono—but she remains indefatigably her own woman.
Sun Ra Cosmic Centenary
Thursday, 8:15 p.m. Berklee Performance Center 136 Mass. Ave., Boston $8-$12, 617-747-2409 www.berklee.edu
Sun Ra was the quantum physicist of jazz, occupying the form’s outer rim, where dissonance and melody were one, and random pulsations were as rhythmic as metered beats, where pure, primitive expression met the most high-minded avant-garde conceptualism. This performance, celebrating his hundredth birthday, features several members of his notorious “Arkestra”, paying tribute to his far-out legacy.
The Cantata Singers perform Mendelssohn’s telling of the travails and triumphs of the fire-commanding, dead-raising, idol-smashing Old Testament prophet Elijah, modeled on the works of Bach and Handel, whose popularity the young composer was instrumental in reviving in the 19th century. Those interested in more background factoids can attend a pre-concert talk at 7 p.m.
William Kentridge: The Refusal of Time
Through May 4 Institute of Contemporary Art 100 Northern Ave., Boston $10-$13, 617-478-3103 www.icaboston.org
This video installation by South African artist/wizard William Kentridge, made in collaboration with Harvard historian of science Peter Galison, utilizes live action, music and Kentridge’s trademark animation for an exploration of our attitudes about time through history, which Kentridge believes frequently take the form of a refusal, a seeking to escape the constraining pressure of impending death.
Painter Jeremy Terreson’s use of texture hits you right away looking at these works, which mix oil paints with encaustics and found objects—you almost feels as if you’re touching them, merely by looking. He shifts between purely abstract Pollock-like beautiful messes and more recognizable imagery—spooky/serene images of horses keep showing up like inscrutable recurring dreams.
Cuban-born choreographer Jose Mateo’s latest program features three works from his back catalog, featuring the music of Schubert, Mozart and Bartok. As always, the intimate cabaret setting at the Sanctuary provides a more up-close-and-personal alternative to the grandiosity of bigger ballet companies, an experience to which Mateo’s dramatic sensibilities, with their focus on close interpersonal relations, are well-suited.
Thursday through Saturday Laugh Boston 425 Summer St., Boston $20-$25, 617-725-2844 www.laughboston.com
A rising star in the standup world, Michael Che has a dry, observational style and a healthy sense of the absurd in everyday life. Behind many of his jokes lies a conviction that perspective is key—all you have to do is change your view of things to find the comedy in life. Or you could refuse, and, chances are, end up becoming the joke yourself.
Saturday, 2 p.m. Harvard Museum of Natural History 26 Oxford St., Cambridge $10-$12, 617-495-3045 www.hmnh.harvard.edu
Author Ann Downer will discuss her new book “Wild Animal Neighbors”, which details the current state of human-animal relations. Creatures like the mountain lion, alligator and coyote continue showing up in our backyards, and they’re not always in good moods. The question is how we can negotiate a humane co-existence, one that doesn’t just involve killing ‘em all.
When emo broke into the mainstream circa 2003, Evan Weiss was quietly plugging away in a succession of moderately successful Kinsella-inspired bands. He finally went solo under the above moniker in 2011, and his music is an authentic, earnest expression of life in a genre many had left for dead. It’s so good it almost makes you forget My Chemical Romance—almost.
This local band’s fusions of the smooth and twinkly with the angular and sharp and a far-out spaciness with a down-and-dirty directness makes for a pretty crazy dance-pop experience—we’re not sure whether to get up and groove till our hearts give out or just fall straight into a psychedelic coma. Maybe you just gotta do both!
This Texan metal band are definitely old school, cultivating a delirious 1970’s fantasy aesthetic seemingly ripped straight from musty old issues of the magazine “Heavy Metal” and long-forsaken Dungeons and Dragons manuals. What keeps it all from being mere nostalgia is the simple fact that these guys rock, with a purity and commitment to the style that dares to rival its originators.