This Week in Arts: a Menagerie, Fresh-Picked Plays and Cuban Dance

This Week in Arts: a Menagerie, Fresh-Picked Plays and Cuban Dance


Through March 29; folkartmuseum.org.

There’s an amazing little wooden tiger in the American Folk Art Museum’s teaching collection. Made around 1980 in Oaxaca by Manuel Jimenez, the piece is at once so simply shaped and so brightly painted that it comes across less as a depiction of any specific animal than as a vivid realization of the very idea of tigerness.

Starting Jan. 16, you’ll be able to visit it, along with a spotted pig, a yellow fox and a green dog, in the lobby of the Citigroup Building in Long Island City as part of “A Kingdom in Pieces,” where they’ll be keeping company with contemporary animal-focused paintings by artists associated with the nearby Fountain House Gallery. WILL HEINRICH

January 17 and 18; bowerypresents.com.

There’s a comforting nostalgia to much of the music by Japanese Breakfast, the solo project of the singer-songwriter Michelle Zauner. Her polished sophomore album, “Soft Sounds From Another Planet,” is a lush, sweet take on ’90s shoegaze and dream pop, with hazy layers of reverb-heavy guitar and synths that give her music an organic-sounding richness.

But her retro aesthetic sounds fresh, in part thanks to its sharp songwriting and focus on contemporary anxieties. The soothing vibe belies the familiar existential dread in the poetic lyrics. “All of our celebrities keep dying/While the cruel men continue to win,” Zauner sings in “Till Death,” a song she has said is about love.

The music, which can be heard live during Zauner’s two-night run at Brooklyn Steel, rewards those who pay close attention. Even her artist name is a way to distinguish who’s a true fan and who’s just along for the ride: She’s Korean-American, not Japanese, and has made her relationship with her identity an important part of her work. As she told Teen Vogue last year, “I think that right now there are a lot of young kids that are pushing marginalized voices to the front, and I think I feel kind of a part of that.” NATALIE WEINER

Through Jan. 20, labtheater.org.

There are new works, and then there are scripts so fresh from the playwright’s fingertips that they reach the stage with no time for rehearsal. That’s what happened last year at Labyrinth Theater Company’s Barn Series, a festival of new-play readings, the night that the Pulitzer Prize winner Stephen Adly Guirgis presented some fragments of a work in progress.

In the minutes before the reading, from his adaptation of the movie “Dog Day Afternoon,” Guirgis stood onstage with a dozen actors, quietly explaining to each of them who they were playing and the circumstances of their scenes. The resulting performance was exhilarating — huge energy packed into the tiny studio space at the Cherry Lane Theater in Greenwich Village, where the free festival is back this week.

Elizabeth Canavan’s “Ladies in Waiting,” Brett C. Leonard‘s “Papo” and Mariana Carreño King’s “The Red Gene” are among the plays in this year’s series, which wraps up Jan. 20 with three Guirgis works. One of the plays will get a full Labyrinth production this summer. LAURA COLLINS-HUGHES

Through Jan. 20; joyce.org.

In the winter, live dance warms you up. The Joyce Theater provides some necessary heat with its Cuba Festival 2019, which features two returning groups. Malpaso Dance Company (through Jan. 13) presents works by Ohad Naharin, Merce Cunningham and up-and-coming Cuban choreographers, while Compañía Irene Rodríguez (Jan. 18-20) offers “Mas Que Flamenco,” a program of short pieces.

Wedged in between is the United States debut of the intriguingly named contemporary company Los Hijos del Director, or The Children of the Director (Jan. 15-16). In “The Last Resource,” choreographed by George Céspedes, who formed the troupe in Havana in 2013, dancers explore the obstacles that Cubans face. Alienation, uncertainty, change — it’s starting to sound all too familiar, in or out of Cuba. But this work, with music ranging from heavy metal and electronica to pieces by Cuban singer-songwriters, promises to be anything but. GIA KOURLAS

Jan. 13 and 20; pbs.org.

Charles and Diana. William and Kate. Harry and Meghan. But without Victoria and Albert, that phenomenon forever after known as the royal wedding might not exist.

In “Victoria & Albert: The Wedding,” airing on Sundays, Jan. 13 and 20, on PBS (check local listings), the British historian Lucy Worsley breathlessly details the first cousins’ path to the altar: the conspiracy to marry them from their births and their fizzled introduction on her 17th birthday (he was plump and had dreadful diarrhea; she liked her gift of a parrot more). Then came their second meeting, when Albert, by then a frog transformed, ignited in the young queen a sensation of “pure, beautiful, gobsmacking love,” as one expert puts it. Get that girl her fan.

Worsley then reimagines their 1840 nuptials, devised as the P.R. coup of the century — the better to herald the modern constitutional monarchy — down to Victoria’s white wedding dress, which popularized the color for brides, and a breakfast feast resplendent with skinned hares, taxidermied pigeons (adorning pigeon pies) and a 300-pound fruitcake.

The pomp and passion continues as Season 3 of “Victoria,” also starting Jan. 13, finds revolution sweeping across Europe — and the plucky monarch (Jenna Coleman) confronting a crisis that could end her reign. KATHRYN SHATTUCK

Jan. 16; filmforum.com.

Chela (Ana Brun) and Chiquita (Margarita Irún), the descendants of wealthy families in Asunción, Paraguay, have been partners for 30 years. But in the first frames of “The Heiresses” — opening Jan. 16 at the Film Forum and coming to theaters in other major cities — strangers rifle through their once-opulent apartment as the couple sell off cherished belongings now that their money has run out.

So, apparently, has their luck: Chiquita has been accused of fraud and sent to prison, leaving Chela mired in loneliness and encroaching poverty. When a gossipy older neighbor (María Martins) asks Chela for a lift to her card game, she reluctantly begins a sort of taxi service, finding an unfamiliar freedom behind the wheel of her vintage Mercedes. Then Angy (Ana Ivanova) — younger, brash, sexy — climbs into the passenger seat. And something in Chela stirs.

Brun, in a fine debut, won the Silver Bear for best actress at the 2018 Berlin Film Festival. And the director Marcelo Martinessi, who says he was inspired by the romance between Paraguay’s petite bourgeoisie and authoritarian regimes, captured the Alfred Bauer Prize for a feature “that opens new perspectives.” KATHRYN SHATTUCK

Jan. 16-17; metmuseum.org.

The soprano Julia Bullock is in the midst of a hotly anticipated and now widely celebrated five-event residency at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she has already performed traditional slave songs, settings of poetry by Langston Hughes, a new version of John Adams’s oratorio “El Niño,” and a bevy of other contemporary works.

On Wednesday and Thursday at the Met, she will inhabit the part of Josephine Baker in composer Tyshawn Sorey’s “Perle Noire: Meditations for Joséphine.” Described by The New York Times upon its 2016 debut as “one of the most important works of art yet to emerge from the era of Black Lives Matter,” the work melancholically reimagines songs by this complex icon, with texts by the poet Claudia Rankine. It has continued to evolve in performances by Bullock and the International Contemporary Ensemble, and remains powerfully relevant. As Sorey told The Times, “The lyrical content is timeless, and I wanted to create something musically to reflect what we’re experiencing now.” WILLIAM ROBIN



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