Here’s what to do in Boston this weekend

THEATER

The Whipping Man

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Saturday through February 16
Arsenal Center for the Arts
321 Arsenal St., Watertown
$20-$60, 617-923-8487
www.newrep.org

This 2012 play tells the unusual story of a Jewish Confederate soldier home from the Civil War. His two black slaves, who he’s raised Jewish, are now free. As they celebrate Passover, the holiday commemorating a much more ancient emancipation, they must contemplate their radically changed social relations—and the way forward here is no clearer than it was for the desert wanderers of the Exodus.

Bread and Puppet: The Shatterer of Worlds

Thursday through February 2
Cyclorama, Boston Center for the Arts
539 Tremont St., Boston
$12-$15, 866-811-4111
www.theatermania.com

Vermont-based, radical leftist “cheap art” collective Bread and Puppet make their annual visit the Boston Center for the Arts with this show, described as a “walkabout performance.” Not quite sure what it’s about this time—something to do with the institutionalized horror of nuclear weapons—but this crew always delivers a unique and challenging experience for eyes, ears, and especially mind.

The Elephant Man

Thursday through February 15
Salem Theater Company
90 Lafayette St., Salem
$10-$25, 866-811-4111
www.salemtheatre.com

This lauded 1977 play tells the story of John Merrick, the famously deformed Victorian man who became an improbable hit with high society, both as a conversationalist and a conversation piece. The humanity beneath his grotesque frame is rendered palpable by the lack of makeup on the actor playing him. Only the other characters “see” his deformity—to us he looks normal.

MUSIC

Luciana Souza Quintet

In photo: Luciana Souza Credit: Bob Wolfenson

Saturday, 8 p.m.
Sanders Theater
45 Quincy St., Cambridge
$25-$45, 617-482-6661
www.celebrityseries.org

Luciana Souza is a Brazilian singer-songwriter with six Grammy nominations under her belt, and a musical breadth that refuses to be contained by a single genre, embracing jazz, classical, world and more. The inclusion of equally virtuosic and musically adventurous special guests Lionel Loueke, guitar, and Grégoire Maret, harmonica, should only sweeten the evening.

Alloy Orchestra

Saturday, 8 p.m.
Somerville Theater
55 Davis Sq., Somerville
$25, 617-876-4275
www.worldmusic.org

This Cambridge-based trio is one of the world’s best ensembles wholly dedicated to creating original silent film scores. For this evening’s show they’ll debut their latest, a score to the relatively obscure “He Who Gets Slapped”, starring the legendarily versatile Lon Chaney as an eminent scientist who, through tragic circumstances, ends up as a circus clown degrading himself for laughs.

Beethoven Symphony No. 4

Friday through Sunday
Symphony Hall
301 Mass. Ave., Boston
$20-$86, 617-266-3605
www.handelandhaydn.org

Guest conductor Richard Egarr leads the Handel and Haydn Society through Beethoven’s fourth, in which his debt to Haydn can be heard, as well as Haydn’s final symphony, known as the “London” symphony. Also on the program are Haydn’s trumpet concerto, featuring Alison Balson on the trumpet, and the Symphony in G Major by W.F.E. Bach (one of Johann Sebastian’s grandsons).

COMEDY

Penn and Teller

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Friday and Saturday
Citi Shubert Theater
265 Tremont St., Boston
$35-$75, 866-348-9738
www.citicenter.org

It’s been ten years since this veteran comedy magic duo have graced a Boston stage. Their signature act remains unmatched, with its mix of humor, absurdist violence and elaborate, jaw-dropping illusions—illusions whose secrets they aren’t afraid, now and then, to reveal, confident that the demystification process has a magic all its own.

DANCE

PERFORMANCE

Friday and Saturday
Institute of Contemporary Art
100 Northern Ave., Boston
$15-$30, 617-478-3100
www.icaboston.org

The all caps is intentional there—that’s the actual title of this show, a multimedia collaborative effort between choreographer Rashaun Mitchell, musician Stephin Merritt and installation artist Ali Naschke-Messing. They ran a preview this past summer under the name “Romance Study #1”, but this is the final version, inspired by the notion that all social interaction is performance of one kind or another.

MOVIES

Dead of Winter: Bloodsucking Freaks

Friday through January 30
Brattle Theater
40 Brattle St., Cambridge
$8-$10, 617-876-6837
www.brattlefilm.org

The Brattle Theater presents a series of vampire films, running the gamut of the durable horror archetype, from classic (“Nosferatu”, “Dracula”) to camp (“Blacula”, “The Lost Boys”). And no, neither Anne Rice nor the “Twilight” series make an appearance—this is about vampires, not pasty, moody hotties—okay, well there are a few of those here but you get the point.

ART

Alison Saar: Still…

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Through March 8
Sandra and David Bakalar Gallery, MassArt
621 Huntington Ave., Boston
Free, 617-879-7333
www.massart.edu

This sculptor’s work confronts us with the uncanny, menacing dimension of our own bodies. Some pieces look like liquor stills, and yet also, distressingly, like human innards. There’s a scale—on one side a statue of a human, on the other a rusty pile of human junk. And there are human hearts gone rogue, tip-toeing away spider-like, using their arteries as spindly legs.

2014 Leopold Godowsky, Jr. Color Photography Awards

Through March 22
Photographic Resource Center
821 Comm. Ave., Boston
Free, 617-975-0600
www.bu.edu/prc

The Photographic Resource Center presents the four finalists in its quadrennial contest, which draws entries from across the world through the nominations of art experts. Each of the finalists—winner Louie Palu and runners-up Aaron Blum, Alejandro Cartagena and Bastienne Schmidt—has a different agenda, but they have in common a stunning mastery of color that serves their diverse aims indispensably.

BOOKS

Max Tegmark

Monday, 7 p.m.
Harvard Book Store
1256 Mass. Ave., Cambridge
Free, 617-661-1515
www.harvard.com

This MIT professor believes physical reality is a mathematical structure—not just that math can describe it, but more radically, that reality actually is math. That sounds cool, but what the heck does it mean? Tegmark lucidly—or at least as lucidly as one can—explains it in his book, “Our Mathematical Universe”, alongside remembrances from his accomplished career.

ROCK SHOWS

Weekend

Thursday, 9 p.m.
Great Scott
1222 Comm. Ave., Allston
$10-$12, 800-745-3000
www.ticketmaster.com

This Brooklyn-based band started in San Francisco as noisy shoegazers indebted to My Bloody Valentine, but they’ve evolved backwards, rock history-wise, into a classic post-punk act who should be very much to the liking of any fans of New Order, Joy Division, Killing Joke, the Cure, etc.—albeit with a little of the scuzz remaining, lest things get too robotic.

Rock-n-Romp: Parks/Bent Shapes

Saturday, 12 p.m.
The Sinclair
52 Church St., Cambridge
$5-$10, 800-745-3000
www.ticketmaster.com

If you’re a young, hip parent who misses going to shows, the Rock-n-Romp series might be just your thing. These kid-friendly, low-noise shows take place before bedtime, and if you kid gets bored with the music, they’ve got activities. This one features consummate local 60’s-style pop acts Parks and Bent Shapes—a pleasure to see in any context.

Berfest

Friday, 7 p.m.
Middle East Upstairs
472 Mass. Ave., Cambridge
$9-$10, 866-777-8932
www.mideastclub.com

This annual show began in an Allston basement in 2005 and has grown in ambition each year, now taking place in three states. The 2014 Boston leg features Flat Swamp, Kal Marks, Bad History Month, Fax Holiday, Pile and Average Cock—an accomplished, sonically diverse lot whose only commonality is a commitment to making whatever kind of music they want.


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