Pop From Another Planet
Singer, songwriter and producer Eva Moolchan records electronic pop as the one-woman band Sneaks. She keeps her music terse, minimal, homemade-sounding and underhandedly catchy: dance music with wary but self-affirming messages. Based in Washington, Sneaks stays connected to the long-standing do-it-yourself underground there. But low-grade synthesizers, not punk guitars, are her instruments, and they give her a soundworld that turns dinky tones into a personal universe, “a planet of my own,” as one song promises. She sings in an airy sustain, raps with calm certainty and concocts electronic tracks that flaunt their repetitiveness even as they stack up additional parts in the mix. Her set of musical tools is deliberately limited; it’s also all she needs. She has an album due Jan. 25 titled “Highway Hypnosis,” and a Feb. 16 show at Bowery Ballroom in New York.
— JON PARELES
A ‘Great Gatsby’ Marathon
Of all the page-to-stage adaptations of great American novels, none have been as spectacularly imaginative, or as true to their holy source, as “Gatz.” This six-hour-plus production from Elevator Repair Service — a word-for-word presentation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” — dazzled New Yorkers with its skill and audacity when it arrived at the Public Theater eight years ago. Here was a show that improbably transformed the intimate relationship between a reader and a book into a joyously collective act of literary seduction, performed by a chameleon cast of 13, and it became the season’s most coveted ticket. Now, because sometimes there are indeed second acts in the lives of memorable theater, this great “Gatz” — led by the virtuoso Scott Shepherd as a common reader who falls in love with Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age tragedy — is returning to Manhattan for an eight-performance run at the NYU Skirball Center, starting Jan. 23.
— BEN BRANTLEY
Frida Kahlo in Brooklyn
Clothes were more than just clothes to Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), the Mexican tyro of surrealist self-portraiture. This should be underscored by “Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving,” an exhibition — based on one by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London — which opens Feb. 8 at the Brooklyn Museum. Combining beautifully embroidered blouses and colorful peasant skirts with outsize jewelry both ancient and contemporary, Kahlo’s ensembles were in today’s jargon assiduously “curated.” They celebrated Mexico’s indigenous cultures; imbued her frail, damaged body with a powerful aura; and displayed an early grasp of the fluidity of gender and identity. The totality amounted to a continual homage to a defiant multifaceted Otherness that was central to her finely detailed paintings and captured in staged photographs. The exhibition will also include examples from Brooklyn’s holdings of Meso-American objects like those collected by Kahlo and her husband, Diego Rivera. Expect her intense presence and unparalleled sensibility to achieve liftoff.
— ROBERTA SMITH
A Cocky Comedian Does Cabaret
In the middle of a digression about her boyfriend, Catherine Cohen burped. “I’m sorry,” she said, rolling her eyes at Joe’s Pub. “I literally can’t stop creating content.” She’s not lying. Part of the reason this explosive performer stands out among the fertile field of 20-something comedians working outside clubs right now is her productivity. She has been extremely funny in a dizzying number of ways: quick online character work (“art wife” but “workout mom” should be enough evidence to give her an IFC sketch show), podcasts, her weekly show at Club Cumming, but her finest showcase so far is her cabaret act where she plays a preposterously cocky chanteuse with go-for-broke showmanship. Her tuneful songs mix vulnerability as well as flights of lunacy into her infatuation with her own hotness. The title: “Catherine Cohen: The Twist? ... She’s Gorgeous,” Jan. 16 at Joe’s Pub. If you like Sandra Bernhard or Julie Klausner, this might be for you.
— JASON ZINOMAN
Marlon James Turns to Fantasy
Marlon James is one of those novelists who aren’t afraid to give a performance, to change the states of language from viscous to gushing to grand, to get all the way inside the people he’s created. His previous novel, “A Brief History of Seven Killings,” from 2014, used an assassination attempt on Bob Marley in 1976 to turn Jamaica into someplace far more galactic than a mere island. Now James is back with “Black Leopard, Red Wolf,” out Feb. 5, which looks like another great, big tale of death, murder and mystery but more mystically fantastical. This one is set in Africa and concerns the hunt for a missing boy. But that’s my budget description! This book comes with a hefty cast of characters (like “Seven Killings”), but there are also shape shifters, fairies, trolls and, apparently, a map. The map might be handy. But it might be the opposite of why you come to James — to get lost in him.
— WESLEY MORRIS
‘Fleabag’ on the Stage
Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s television comedy is so disorienting you almost feel compelled to see it in person — to try to inspect its seams and figure out how it all fits together. How does Waller-Bridge take this mass of human pain (grief, self-loathing, class anxiety, dysfunctional female relationships, weird sex stuff) and refashion it into works that feel both bizarrely funny and scary real? In the dramedy “Fleabag,” her comedy assumed the form of a sex-addicted London cafe owner (played by Waller-Bridge herself) who was mourning the death of her best friend; in “Killing Eve,” she channeled it through a cop hunting the psychopathic killer who was hunting her back. “Fleabag” actually began as a one-woman live show that lit up the Edinburgh Fringe festival in 2013, and starting Feb. 28 Waller-Bridge will perform that show at off-Broadway’s SoHo Playhouse, where American audiences can study her talents up close.
— AMANDA HESS
‘Documentary Now!’ Finally Returns
When “Documentary Now!” returns on IFC on Feb. 20, the gap between seasons will have been almost 2 1/2 years. The slow pace isn’t surprising, given that the eccentric series is a side project for a collective of successful comedians that includes Fred Armisen, Seth Meyers, Bill Hader and John Mulaney, and that making meticulous, highly distinct parodies of a wide range of documentaries must be a labor-intensive process. The new season — it’s the third, but in a public-television in-joke, it’s billed as the 52nd — includes sendups of Netflix’s “Wild, Wild Country” with Owen Wilson in the guru role and of “Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present” with Cate Blanchett as a soulfully imperious performance artist.
— MIKE HALE
An Intense Double Bill of Opera
Opera already has a deathless double bill: “Cavalleria Rusticana” and “Pagliacci,” so entwined that at this point they barely exist apart. But four years ago, the Metropolitan Opera proposed a new, probably unprecedented pairing. Bringing together Tchaikovsky’s lush fairy tale “Iolanta,” about a princess whose blindness is cured by love, with Bartok’s brooding symbolist drama “Bluebeard’s Castle,” a brutal glimpse of history’s worst honeymoon, the company (in coproduction with Polish National Opera) made one of its most stylish, intense shows. The director, Mariusz Trelinski, doesn’t push too hard at the connection between the works, but you end up feeling a kinship. Perhaps Bartok’s Judith, at the mercy of a violent new husband, is here a grown-up version of Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta, at the mercy of a repressive father. A six-performance revival, opening Jan. 24, features superb casts — Sonya Yoncheva and Matthew Polenzani in “Iolanta,” Angela Denoke and Gerald Finley in “Bluebeard” — led by Henrik Nanasi, an experienced conductor new to the Met.
— ZACHARY WOOLFE
Mike Leigh Looks at a Massacre
When Mike Leigh’s “Peterloo” played in Telluride and other festivals late last summer, not everyone was blown away. Too much talk, they said. And it’s true that this painstaking reconstruction of the events leading up to an infamous massacre of protesting workers in Manchester, England, in 1819 features more talk than action. Nearly every scene is a debate or a speech of some kind, even after the violence starts. But I like my politics argumentative and my history dialectical, and I found this movie thrilling and thought-provoking as both a depiction of the past and a mirror held up to the present. I’m looking forward to seeing it again after it opens on April 5.
— A.O. SCOTT
A Tap Dancer Aims Higher
With his chinchilla streak of white hair, the tap dancer and choreographer Caleb Teicher has always seemed singular. He also seemed slight, clever, offbeat. In the last three or more years, though, his voice has grown freer, larger, happier. In the fall, he presented an extensive preview of his new piece, “More Forever,” as part of the Works and Process series at the Guggenheim, where it will have its world premiere, Jan. 6-7. A collaboration with pianist-composer Conrad Tao and six other dancers, the work is a marvelous, transporting meeting of fantasy, wit and intelligence. It extends the sonic aspects of dance theater: I was astounded by the pervasive use of release and silence at the end of phrases, the interplay between quiet and loud, between percussive and stroked footwork, the immense range of dynamics and meters within individual phrases. Stillness, silhouettes, geometries: Everything combines to make “More Forever” a new dance world of the imagination.
— ALASTAIR MACAULAY
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.